Islamic State fighters in northern Syria in 2014
UPDATE, MAY 3:
Turkey’s security officials say Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi detonated his suicide vest to avoid capture by attacking Turkish intelligence forces.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, MAY 1: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in the midst of a re-election campaign, says Turkey’s intelligence services have killed the leader of Islamic State, Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, in northern Syria.
Erdoğan told State broadcaster TRT Türk on Sunday, “This individual was neutralised as part of an operation by the Turkish national intelligence organisation in Syria yesterday.”
Local sources and security personnel said the killing was in the northern Syrian town of Jindires, controlled by Turkey-backed anti-Assad factions.
Residents said the assault was on an abandoned farm being used as an Islamic school. One said clashes started on the edge of the town late Saturday night, lasting for about an hour before a large explosion. Security forces later prevented anyone approaching the area.
A spokesman for the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces — which is in conflct with Turkey and its allies — said, “The ISIS figure Abu Hussein al-Qurashi…was stationed in a military post belonging to the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sharqiya mercenary group and was killed in Jindires, Afrin [canton].”
Qurashi became the head of Islamic State in November. Weeks earlier, his predecessor Abu al-Hasan al-Hashmi al-Qurayshi was killed by members of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army in southern Syria.
The US has assassinated a series of Islamic State leaders, beginning with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria in October 2019.
Baghdadi had led the Islamic State’s surge across northern Iraq and Syria in 2014. However, ISIS’s grip was eroded from 2015 by the US-backed SDF as well as Assad regime forces enabled by Russia and Iran.
The group lost its last village in Syria, Baghouz in the east near the Iraqi border, in March 2019. But its cells continue to operate, carrying out a series of deadly attacks on Assad regime forces.
See also Islamic State Kills 53+ in Central Syria
In mid-April, US Central Command said a helicopter raid in northern Iran killed a senior ISIS official, Abd-al Hadi Mahmud al-Haji Ali.