The Islamic State group (ISIS) has officially confirmed on Thursday that its leader was killed in a U.S. strike in northwestern Syria that happened on Feb. 3.
The militant group issued its first statement about its leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi since U.S. officials stated that he blew himself up with members of his family as American forces raided his hideout in the northwestern Syrian town of Atmeh, near the border with Turkey, last month.
An audio recording was released on Thursday. ISIS spokesman Abu Omar al-Muhajer confirmed the death of the leader during the raid as well as of their former spokesperson. “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 jihadist group also announced their “pledged allegiance” to their new leader, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, saying the late IS chief has chosen his next caliph, “Abu Hasan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi as an emir over believers and the caliph of Muslims.”
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi led ISIS since 2019. He was an ethnic Turkman from the Iraqi city of Tal Afar. He replaced previous ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a U.S. raid in Oct. 2019. Meanwhile, there was no immediate information about the successor. No confirmation has been made whether he is Iraqi like his two predecessors, who were both killed in the rebel-held parts of Syria.
“He has accepted the leadership,” al-Muhajer said of the new IS chief, without providing his real name.
Last month’s U.S. raid was the second time that the United States removed the ISIS leader in three years. During the raid, estimated 50 US special operations forces landed in helicopters and attacked a house in a rebel-held corner of Syria, clashing for two hours with shooters. There were 13 people reportedly killed, including six children and four women.
Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi’s death came two weeks after ISIS launched an attack on a northeast Syria prison housing fellow jihadists. The jailbreak attempt from the sprawling Ghwayran complex in the northeastern city of Hasakeh triggered a week of clashes inside and around the facility, resulting in fatalities and hundreds of deaths.
However, hundreds of ISIS prisoners, including senior leaders, are believed to have escaped, with some crossing to neighboring Turkey or Turkish-held territory in Syria’s north, claimed by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.