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ISIS confirms death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announces new leader

Islamic State confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the appointment of a new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, in an audio statement released by Islamic State’s central al-Furqan Foundation media arm on Thursday, October 31.

Al-Furqan is responsible for the most important ISIS releases, often featuring audio and video of senior ISIS leadership.

In the statement a new spokesperson, identified as Abu Hamzah al-Qurayshi, confirmed the deaths of both Baghdadi and the former spokesperson, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir.

On October 27, U.S. President Donald Trump said ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. Special Operations forces raid the previous night. Baghdadi allegedly detonated a suicide vest killing himself and three children inn a dead-end tunnel during the operation in a compound in Barisha, a village in Idlib province about 5 km (3.1 miles) from the Syria-Turkey border.

SDF commander-in-chief General Mazlum Abdi said that for five months “there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring” and that “cooperation in monitoring and targeting ISIS leaders” was continuing.

He later said that an SDF source had been inside the house where Baghdadi was hiding, and that source took Baghdadi’s underwear, which was used for a DNA test to confirm his identity.

Mazlum said Baghdadi was preparing to move to a new hideout in Jarabulus.

The Washington Post said the source was a well-placed ISIS operative who facilitated Baghdadi’s movements around Syria and helped oversee the construction of his Syrian hideout, and his information on the room and tunnel layout of the compound was passed to the special operators who carried out the raid.

The source, who was at the scene as the raid unfolded, was exfiltrated two days later with his family. The Post said that he was likely to receive some or all of the $25 million reward the U.S. had put on al-Baghdadi’s head.

Besides al-Baghdadi’s movements, the informant knew the room-by-room layout of al-Baghdadi’s final Syrian hideout, according to the Post.

Also on October 27, Mazlum said that ISIS spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was “targeted” in an operation in Ayn al-Baydah, around 10 km (6 miles) south of Jarabulus, which is on the Turkey border. Syrian rebels backed by Turkish forces captured the area in during Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016.

An SDF official told AFP that al-Muhajir had been killed, and on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s number one replacement” was “terminated” by U.S. troops. Officials later confirmed that Trump was referring to al-Muhajir.

“We believe ISIS spox. Al-Muhajir was in Jarablus to facilitate Baghdadi’s entry to Euphrates Shield area,” SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali later tweeted.

How will Baghdadi’s death change Islamic State?

With reporting from AFP

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