On Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, the commander of the Islamic State (ISIS), had been assassinated in Syria by Turkish intelligence agents. Erdogan stated in an interview with the Turkish network TRT Turk that “this person was neutralised as an outcome of a mission undertaken by the Turkish nation’s intelligence organisation in Syria yesterday.”
Erdogan claimed that the spy agency had been looking for Qurashi for a while. According to local as well as security sources in Syria, the raid occurred in the northwestern town of Jandaris, a place that is held by rebel organisations supported by Turkey and was one of the hardest damaged by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6.
A rebel group with a security presence in the region, the Syrian National Army, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to a local, fighting broke out on the outskirts of Jandaris over the course of the night between Saturday and Sunday, lasting for nearly an hour before locals heard a huge explosion. Later, security personnel surrounded the area to keep people from entering.
After the previous leader of IS was assassinated in a military operation in the south of Syria in November 2022, IS chose al-Qurashi as its new leader. In 2014, the Islamic State seized large portions of Iraq and Syria, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader at the time, proclaimed an Islamic caliphate over the region, which was home to millions of people.
What is ISIS?
The Salafi-Jihadist terrorist group The Islamic State (IS), frequently referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), predominantly operates in Syria and Iraq. The organisation wants to build an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq and then eventually expand its control throughout the world. The 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s saw the establishment of IS.
Throughout this period, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi established Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad (JTJ), the principal predecessor organisation of IS, and started enlisting and educating extremist activists at a training facility in Herat, Afghanistan.
The extremists want to establish an extremely conservative caliphate with strong Sharia, or Islamic, law enforcement.
ISIS and Al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi, created ISIS. He first took control of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and turned it into a well-coordinated and effective fighting force. In April 2013, the organisation changed its name to reflect its greater goal of creating a caliphate that encompassed all of Iraq and Syria.
ISIS released a manifesto in June 2014 that claimed to be able to prove al-Baghdadi’s descent from the Prophet Muhammad. Al-Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in May 2017. That, however, has never been proven.
US supported campaigns against ISIS
The United States has been leading a coalition of nations that has been conducting strike operations targeting ISIS and providing assistance to Iraqi troops battling the insurgents since 2014.
ISIS had lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria by the very end of 2017, and Iraq announced its conflict with the militant group to be over in December. After campaigns by forces supported by the United States in Iraq and Syria, along with Syrian forces supported by Iran, Russia, and various paramilitaries, IS was forced to relinquish control of the area.
However, analysts have cautioned that despite ISIS’ self-declared caliphate being in ruins on a territorial level, the organisation is retreating into what some refer to as a “virtual caliphate,” from which it will try to incite greater isolated wolf terrorist incidents in the West. They remain trained to carry out significant hit-and-run attacks. The thousands of militants that remain today have largely retreated into both countries’ isolated hinterlands in recent years.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition led by the United States and composed of Kurdish forces, continue to conduct raids against IS leaders in Syria.