The Islamic State militant group confirmed on Thursday its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, the group’s news agency Amaq said in an audio tape following a U.S. weekend raid.
Baghdadi, an Iraqi jihadist who rose from obscurity to declare himself “caliph” of all Muslims as the leader of Islamic State, was killed by U.S. special forces in northwestern Syria, President Donald Trump said on Sunday.
The group had been silent until now. As successor it appointed someone Amaq only identified as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi.
Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher at Swansea University focused on Islamic State, said the name was unknown but could be a top figure called Hajj Abdullah whom the U.S. State Department had identified as a possible successor to Baghdadi
“It could be someone we know, who perhaps has just assumed this new name,” said Tamimi.
The group, which controlled swathes of Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2017 and carried out atrocities that horrified most Muslims, also confirmed the death of its spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir.
Baghdadi was killed in Idlib in northwestern Syria.
U.S. special forces carried out the Syrian operation in which Baghdadi killed himself and three of his children by detonating a suicide vest when he was cornered in a tunnel, according to U.S. officials.