CAIRO, Oct 31, (Agencies): 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 US 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 US special forces in northwestern Syria, US 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 US 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. US 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 US officials.
The Pentagon on Wednesday released its first images from last weekend’s commando raid in Syria that led to the death of -Baghdadi and warned the militant group may attempt to stage a “retribution attack.” The declassified, grainy, black-and-white aerial videos from Saturday’s raid showed US special operations forces closing in on the compound and US aircraft firing on militants nearby.
The most dramatic video showed a massive, black plume of smoke rising from the ground after US military bombs leveled Baghdadi’s compound. “It looks pretty much like a parking lot, with large potholes,” said Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East. McKenzie, briefing Pentagon reporters, said the idea of destroying the compound was at least in part “to ensure that it would not be a shrine or otherwise memorable in any way. “It’s just another piece of ground,” he said.
Baghdadi, an Iraqi jihadist who rose from obscurity to declare himself “caliph” of all Muslims as the leader of Islamic State, died by detonating a suicide vest as he fled into a deadend tunnel as elite US special forces closed in. McKenzie said he brought two young children into the tunnel with him – not three, as had been the US government estimate. Both children were believed to be under the age of 12 and both were killed, he said.
He portrayed Baghdadi as isolated at his Syrian compound, just four miles from the Turkish border, saying fighters from other militant groups nearby probably did not even know he was there. McKenzie suggested it was unlikely that Baghdadi used the Internet or had digital connections to the outside world. “I think you’d find (he was using) probably a messenger system that allows you to put something on a fl oppy or on a bit of electronics and have someone physically move it somewhere,” he said.