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IS jihadist militia announces death of leader and appoints new 'caliph'

The jihadist militia Islamic State (IS) has announced the death of its leader and appointed his successor.

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IS jihadist militia announces death of leader and appoints new 'caliph'

The jihadist militia Islamic State (IS) has announced the death of its leader and appointed his successor. The Iraqi Abu Hassan al-Hashimi al-Kurashi was killed "in the fight against the enemies of God," said a spokesman for the militia on Wednesday, without giving any information about the time and circumstances of his death. He added that Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Kurashi had been appointed as the new “Muslim Caliph”.

According to US Military Central Command (Centcom), al-Hashimi was killed by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel coalition. The militia leader was killed in mid-October during an FSA operation in the southern Syrian province of Daraa.

The province is largely controlled by Syrian government forces and rebels who have reached an agreement with Damascus. In mid-October, the Syrian government announced a joint operation against IS with former rebels in the province.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on US involvement in the operation. She welcomed the news of al-Hashimi's death and said the US continued its commitment against the "global threat" posed by ISIS.

The militia did not give any further details about the new IS leader, who has the same surname as his predecessor. The name al-Kurashi indicates belonging to a tribe descended from the Prophet Mohammed – a prerequisite for becoming the “Caliph” of IS.

After a rapid rise in 2014 in Iraq and Syria, during which IS conquered large parts of the countries, the self-proclaimed "caliphate" is considered defeated. IS was driven out of Iraq in 2017 and out of Syria two years later.

However, the group has expanded its influence in other parts of the world, such as the Sahel, Nigeria, Yemen and Afghanistan, where it regularly claims responsibility for attacks.

The militia had been repeatedly destabilized by the deaths or captures of its leaders. Earlier this year, leader Abu Ibrahim al-Kurashi was killed in a US attack in the northern Syrian province of Idlib. His predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also killed in Idlib in October 2019.

In October, US forces said they killed a "high-ranking" IS member in a raid in northeastern Syria. The US is leading a military coalition fighting ISIS in Syria.

In a subsequent airstrike, two other high-ranking IS members were killed, the US Central Command said. In July, the Pentagon said it had killed the top IS jihadist in Syria in a drone strike in the north of the country.

Turkey announced in September that security forces had captured a man named Bashar Chattab Ghasal al-Sumaidai. According to Turkish media, there were indications that Sumaidai could have been the IS leader.

In January, IS fighters attacked a prison in north-eastern Syria. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, hundreds of captured IS fighters, including senior leaders, have fled, including to neighboring Turkey or Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

The Pentagon warned on Tuesday that a looming Turkish ground offensive in Syria would "seriously jeopardize" the gains made in the war against ISIS.

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