ISIL leader killed by Free Syrian Army in Daraa: US
The U.S. has announced that the Free Syrian Army has killed the leader of ISIL, Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, while ISIL confirmed the news, announcing a replacement to head up its remaining sleeper cells.
A spokesman for ISIL on Nov. 30 said Hashimi, an Iraqi, was killed “in combat with enemies of God,” without elaborating on the date or circumstances of his death.
The U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said Hashimi had been killed in an operation carried out by the Free Syrian Army in Daraa province in southern Syria in mid-October.
Daraa province is mostly controlled by Syrian government forces and rebels who have reached understandings with the regime. In mid-October, Damascus said it had launched a joint operation against ISIL with former rebels in the south of the province.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “We welcome the announcement that another leader from ISIL is no longer walking in the face of the Earth.”
Speaking in an audio message, the ISIL spokesman said Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi had been named as the group’s new leader.
Qurashi refers to a tribe of the Prophet Mohammed, from whom ISIL leaders must claim descent.
After a meteoric rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014 that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, ISIL saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapse under a wave of offensives.
The extremist group’s austere and terror-ridden rule was marked by beheadings and shootings.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells still carry out attacks in both countries.
The group or its branches have also claimed attacks elsewhere this year, including in Afghanistan, Iran and Israel.
The spokesman did not provide details on the new leader, but said he was a “veteran” jihadist and called on all groups loyal to ISIL to pledge their allegiance to its fourth leader.
ISIL’s previous chief, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, was killed in February this year in a U.S. raid in Idlib province in northern Syria. His predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed, also in Idlib, in October 2019.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not comment on any U.S. involvement in the operation that led to Hashimi’s death.
“We are pleased to see the removal of ISIL leaders in such quick succession,” she told reporters “The United States remains committed to countering the global threat from ISIL and stands ready to work with international partners.” The ISIL leadership have suffered repeated blows from various quarters this year.
In October, U.S. forces killed a “senior” ISIL member in a pre-dawn raid in northeastern Syria, CENTCOM said at the time. The U.S. leads a military coalition battling ISIL in Syria.
The raid targeted “Rakkan Wahid al-Shammari, an ISIL official known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fighters,” CENTCOM said.
It said a later air strike had killed two other senior ISIL members.
In July, the Pentagon said it had killed Syria’s top ISIL jihadist in a drone strike in the north of the country.
U.S. Central Command said he had been “one of the top five” ISIL leaders.
Türkiye said in September that security forces had arrested a “senior executive” of ISIL known as Abu Zeyd, whose real name was Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai.