Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 29 January 2020

US official confirms death of ISIS spokesperson

Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir was said to be one of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s potential successors

Syrians gather at the still flaming spot where Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, ISIS's spokesman, was reportedly killed n the northern Syrian village of Ayn al Bayda near Jarablus on October 27, 2019. AFP / Aaref WATAD
Syrians gather at the still flaming spot where Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, ISIS's spokesman, was reportedly killed n the northern Syrian village of Ayn al Bayda near Jarablus on October 27, 2019. AFP / Aaref WATAD

US forces targeted and killed a spokesperson for ISIS in a strike in northeast Syria over the weekend, a senior State Department official confirmed on Monday, in an operation that closely followed the raid in which the terrorist group’s leader was killed.

In an interview with reporters on Monday, given on condition of anonymity, a US official said that Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir “would have been one of the potential successors” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, adding that “it could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks” before ISIS announces a new leader.

“We will see usually, eulogies come out, and then someone will emerge as the successor,” the official said. “They’ll have religious credentials, they will have leadership credentials.…It will be someone from the kind of inner circle, in all likelihood.”

On Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said Al Muhajir was killed in a joint raid between Kurdish-led and US forces in northern Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Gen Commander Mazloum Abdi said it was "a continuation of the previous operation" in which Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed over the weekend. Mazloum described the spokesman as Al Baghdadi's right-hand man.

The US official said Al Muhajir was killed in the Syrian town of Jarablus in Aleppo province.

The operation which led to "the demise of his (Baghdadi) No. 2, or one of his No. 2s," was also carried out by US forces, the official said, adding that the SDF had a big role in it.

Al Baghdadi, an Iraqi insurgent who rose from obscurity to declare himself "caliph" of all Muslims as the leader of ISIS, died by detonating a suicide vest after fleeing into a dead-end tunnel as elite US special operations forces closed in over the weekend, according to the US government.

ISIS hasn’t yet confirmed the news of Al Baghdadi’s death and has no declared successor to him.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump tweeted a photo of the dog that was reportedly injured in the raid to capture the ISIS leader. Further details about the dog, including its name, remain secret.

Al Baghdadi had long been sought by the United States - which offered a $25 million reward for his capture - as leader of a group that at one point controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has carried out atrocities against religious minorities and attacks on five continents in the name of an ultra-fanatic version of Islam that most Muslims.

The former leader of ISIS was buried at sea, in a similar as Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was in 2011, three officials told Reuters on Monday. The officials believed Al Baghdadi's remains were delivered to the sea from an aircraft.

US Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news briefing on Monday that the US military disposed of Al Baghdadi's remains "appropriately, in accordance with our (standard operating procedures) and in accordance with the law of armed conflict."

Updated: October 29, 2019 07:41 AM

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