The anti-terrorist operation was carried out by the Turkish intelligence agency, President Erdogan has announced
The leader of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, has allegedly been killed in an operation by Türkiye’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in Syria, becoming the terrorist group’s third self-proclaimed “caliph” to be eliminated in the past 15 months.
MIT agents had been tracking al-Qurashi “for a long time” and “neutralized” him on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview aired on Sunday by broadcaster TRT Turk.
“We will continue our struggle with terrorist organizations without any discrimination,” he said.
The operation was reportedly carried out around 1 am on Saturday in a village near Jindires, about seven kilometers (four miles) from the Turkish border. Turkish forces surrounded a compound where al-Qurashi was believed to be staying and battled with IS fighters. The caliph refused to surrender, then detonated explosives that had been strapped to his body.
Al-Qurashi became the terrorist group’s fourth leader last November, after his predecessor, Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, was killed in battle. US military officials claimed that the previous al-Qurashi had been killed in mid-October by Syrian rebels in southern Syria’s Daraa province. He had been on the job for only about eight months, taking the helm after predecessor Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi killed himself and his wife and children during a raid in northern Syria by US special forces.
Although Türkiye’s anti-terrorism operations have focused largely on militant Kurdish groups, including the PKK, the Islamic State also has been a thorn in Ankara’s side, killing a combined 315 civilians in dozens of attacks. US-allied Syrian rebels accused Türkiye last year of giving IS a “safe zone” in northern Syria. Turkish officials dismissed the allegation as “utterly ridiculous.” Türkiye was one of the first countries to identify the Islamic State, then known as ISIS, as a terrorist organization, in 2013, and has been fighting the group for years.
This weekend’s MIT operation comes just two weeks before Türkiye’s presidential election. Erdogan will be seeking re-election in a battle with pro-Western opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Polls show that the race is currently a dead heat.