BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group announced on Thursday the death in Syria of its little-known leader, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurayshi, who headed the extremist organization since November, and named his successor.
The group did not say when al-Qurayshi was killed but added that he died in fighting with an al-Qaida-linked group. IS spokesman Abu Huthaifa al-Ansari said that Abu Hafs al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi was named as the group's new leader.
Al-Qurayshi was the fourth IS leader to be killed since the group was founded by Iraqi militant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and declared a caliphate in large parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014 before its defeat years later.
The spokesman, al-Ansari, said in an audio message that al-Qurayshi “was martyred” in rebel-held northwestern Syria by members of Syria’s al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham when they tried to detain him in the province of Idlib.
“He fought them until he succumbed to his wounds,” al-Ansari said of al-Qurayshi, adding that the al-Qaida-linked group detained some IS members who were with the late leader, including Abu Omar al-Muhajir, another spokesman, and that they are still being held.
In April, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish intelligence agents had killed al-Qurayshi in northern Syria — a statement that IS denied.
The Islamic State group broke away from al-Qaida a decade ago and attracted supporters from around the world. Despite its defeat in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, IS militants still carry out deadly attacks in both countries and elsewhere.
An Afghan branch of IS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Sunday in Pakistan at a pro-Taliban party’s election rally, in one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in recent years. The death toll from that attack has climbed to 63.
IS founder al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid by Americans troops in northwestern Syria in October 2019. The group’s leader after that, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, was also killed in a U.S. raid in February 2022, in northwestern Syria. His successor was killed in southern Syria later that year.
Al-Qurayshi is not the real name of the IS leaders but comes from Quraish, the name of the tribe to which Islam’s Prophet Muhammad belonged. IS claims its leaders hail from this tribe and “al-Qurayshi” serves as part of their nom de guerre.