The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, has confirmed the death of its leader, Abu Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi, and announced Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as his replacement. The announcement was made on the Telegram messaging app by an ISIL spokesman, who stated that the leader was killed in clashes with the rival group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib province, northwestern Syria.
Earlier, in April, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had claimed that Turkish intelligence forces had killed the ISIL leader in Syria. Turkish media had released images of a building in the Afrin region of Aleppo province where they said he was hiding.
ISIL has accused Hayat Tahrir al-Sham of being responsible for the killing and claimed that the rival group had handed over the leader’s body to Turkey. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is a group that controls parts of Idlib province and has been blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the United States and other Western governments.
ISIL rose to prominence in 2014 when it captured large areas of Iraq and Syria, declaring a self-proclaimed “caliphate.” However, it faced a series of offensives that led to the collapse of its territorial control. Despite its territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group’s sleeper cells continue to carry out attacks in both countries.
Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Qurashi is now the fifth leader of ISIL since its inception. The group’s leadership has faced several leadership changes due to deaths and military operations against its leaders, including the killing of its first leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2019 in Idlib province.