ISIS names its new leader and confirms death of former terror chief al-Qurashi a month after he was killed in a raid by US Special Forces in Syria

Daily Mail, UK/March 10, 2022

By Lauren Lewis

ISIS today named its new leader and confirmed the death of former terror chief Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi a month after he was killed in a raid by US Special Forces in Syria.

The jihadist group 'pledged allegiance' to their new leader 'Abu Hasan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi as an emir over believers and the caliph of Muslims,' the group's spokesperson said in an audio recording today.         

The recording confirmed the death of the former ISIS chief along with the group's ex-spokesman.

'Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi and the official Islamic State group spokesman... Abu Hamza al-Qurashi...were killed in recent days,' the new spokesperson said.

The former leader blew himself up in early February during a US raid in northwest Syria, according to Washington, in an area controlled by rival jihadists.

Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, who led ISIS from 2019, was an ethnic Turkmen from the Iraqi city of Tal Afar. He replaced ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a US raid in October that year.

Little is known about the new leader, who will serve as the group's third chief since its inception.

He rises to the helm at a time when the group has been weakened by US-backed operations in Iraq and Syria aiming to thwart a jihadist resurgence.

ISIS' self-declared caliphate, established from 2014, once stretched across vast parts of Syria and Iraq and administered millions of inhabitants.

A long and deadly military fightback led by Kurdish-Syrian and Iraqi forces with backing from the United States and other powers eventually defeated the jihadist proto-state in March 2019.

The remnants of ISIS in Syria mostly went to their desert hideouts from which they continue to harass Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops.

A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria.

Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi's death in February came two weeks after ISIS launched an attack on a northeast Syria prison housing fellow jihadists.

The jail break attempt from the sprawling Ghwayran complex in the northeastern city of Hasakeh triggered a week of clashes inside and around the facility, leaving hundreds dead.

But hundreds of IS prisoners, including senior leaders, are thought to have escaped, with some crossing to neighbouring Turkey or Turkish-held territory in Syria's north, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

Al-Qurashi blew himself up as US special forces conducted a raid on the building he was hiding in northwestern Syria, according to Washington's intelligence.

US military officials said last month that they believe the one-legged jihadist leader rigged the third floor of the building in preparation for an attack because the blast was much larger than one from a regular suicide vest, which often holds just five or 10 pounds of explosives.

Officials believe al-Qurashi, who was tracked down after a drone spotted him bathing on the building's roof last year, himself detonated the explosives that killed him and his family at his home in the sleepy village of Atmeh near the Turkish border on February 2.  

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said US forces killed the militant and his wife in a gun battle. One was barricaded in a small room and shooting from there; another fired while coming through the door.

They also revealed officials had thought they had a good chance of taking al-Qurayshi alive because of his issues with a suicide belt and had made plans to turn him over to another government.     

The troops safely brought four children from the second floor out of the house. But a toddler was found dead there, and the military officials said Thursday that it is not certain how the child died.

They said no gunshot wounds were found and that the child was likely killed by the concussive effects of the third-floor explosion and not shot in the gunfight.

An ISIS member, described as a lieutenant of al-Qurayshi's, and his wife were on the second floor, with as many as five children. All are believed to have been killed in the blast.

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