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Islamic State says its leader was killed, names successor -audio message


CAIRO (Reuters) -Islamic State (IS) militant leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi was killed in fighting, its spokesman said in an audio message posted on an affiliated Telegram channel, another heavy blow to a group that once struck fear across the Middle East.

IS has selected Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi to as its new leader, the spokesman added. He said Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi was killed while “fighting enemies of God”, without elaborating.

No details about the new IS leader were given in the audio.

The spokesman urged Islamic State members in all countries to pledge allegiance to the new leader, adding that “he is one of the loyal sons of the (Islamic) state”.

“This doesn’t mean the group is finished, but for now it is a shadow of its former self, they are hollowed out in terms of their leadership and their ability to carry out attacks,” said Hassan Hassan, author of a book on Islamic State.

“They don’t have iconic, charismatic leaders any more, and they haven’t carried out any major attacks recently.”

The White House welcomed the news that Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi had been killed, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“We’re still working our way through that,” Kirby said when asked about reports of the death.

Islamic State announced Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as its new leader in March after the death of predecessor Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi.

The latter Quraishi was the brother of slain former IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to two Iraqi security officials and one Western security source.

Both Quraishi and Baghdadi died by blowing themselves and family members up during U.S. raids on their hideouts in northern Syria.

Islamic State emerged from the chaos of the civil war in neighbouring Iraq and took over vast swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014. Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate from a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that year and proclaimed himself caliph of all Muslims.

Islamic State’s brutal rule, during which it killed and executed thousands of people in the name of its narrow interpretation of Islam, came to an end in Mosul when Iraqi and international forces defeated the group there in 2017.

Since the peak of its power seven years ago, when it ruled millions of people in the Middle East and frightened the world with deadly bombings and shootings, Islamic State has slipped back into the shadows.

Its remaining thousands of militants have in recent years mostly hid out in remote hinterlands of fractured Iraq and Syria, though they are still capable of carrying out significant insurgent-style attacks.