Erdogan claims IS chief is killed by Turkish forces in Syria

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ANKARA, TURKEY (AP) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a leader of the Islamic State group was killed in an operation by a Turkish intelligence team in northern Syria. Turkish state media said the IS leader blew himself up to avoid arrest.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his interview with TRT Turk Television late Sunday that his IS leader, known as Abu Hussein al-Qurayshi, died Saturday after a lengthy pursuit by his MIT intelligence agency in Turkey. 

In an interview, Erdogan said he would “continue to fight against terrorist organizations” but did not give details. The Islamic State group has yet to confirm the death of its leader. A member of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition military gendarmes told the Associated Press that MIT clashed with IS fighters on a farm in the village of Miska, Aleppo province, late Friday night. Al-Quraishi, who was hiding in a farm building, blew himself up as the fighting escalated, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition war watchdog, said Turkish drones were flying over the area and that Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups were warned by Ankara to clash. It said it had blocked roads leading to where it was being held.
Turkey’s state agency Anadolu said al-Kulaisi detonated his suicide vest when Turkish agents approached him after a four-hour operation. Citing an unnamed security official, the agency said the IS leader was staying in a bunker house in the Jinderes area and did not respond to calls to surrender.

After Turkish agents broke into the building, al-Quraisi blew himself up because he knew he would be caught, the report said. Anadolu added that Al-Kuraishi traveled frequently.

Turkey has conducted numerous operations against IS fighters and Kurdish rebels in Syria’s borders. Turkey controls much of northern Syria’s territory after conducting several land invasions to force Kurdish groups out of its borders. ISIS has carried out a series of deadly attacks in Turkey, including a shooting that killed 39 people during a New Year’s celebration at a nightclub in Istanbul on January 1, 2017.

Abu Hussein Al-Quraishi was named ISIS leader after his former boss was killed in October. He came to power long after ISIS had lost control of areas it controlled in Iraq and Syria. However, ISIS is about to rise again, with sleeper cells launching deadly attacks in both countries. In October 2019, IS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hunted down by US forces in a raid in northwestern Syria. His successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, was killed in a similar attack in February 2022.

According to US forces, he was killed in mid-October during an operation by Syrian rebels in Syria’s southern province of Daraa, after which the last leader, Abu Hussein, seized power from al-Quraisi.

None of the al-Qurayshis are believed to be related. Al-Qurayshi is not her real name but comes from Quraysh, the name of the tribe to which the Islamic Prophet Muhammad belonged. ISIS claims the leader hails from this tribe and that “Al-Quraishi” is part of the ISIS leader’s fighting name.