Daesh has confirmed the death of its leader, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, and named his successor, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi. According to the terrorist group, Abu al-Hassan died "fighting against the enemies of God", without providing further details of his death. The US said the jihadist was killed in the southern Syrian province of Deraa during a Free Syrian Army operation.
"Daesh remains a threat to the region," US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Joe Buccino said in a statement. Buccino said CENTCOM and its allies remain committed "to the lasting defeat" of the jihadist organisation.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre has ruled out US involvement in the operation against Abu al-Hassan. As Jean-Pierre pointed out, the death of the former Daesh leader "was not the result of a US action", reports EFE. In recent months, Washington has been behind several attacks that have killed several senior members of the terrorist organisation.
Meanwhile, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby welcomed the death of another Daesh leader, although he did not provide any further details. "I have no additional operational details to provide at this time," he told reporters.
Although Abu al-Hassan's death is a major blow to the terrorist organisation, analysts and experts continue to warn of the threats posed by Daesh. "This does not mean it is finished, but for now it is a shadow of its former self," Hassan Hassan, author of a book on the group, told Reuters. Hassan Hassan also acknowledges its current weakness. "They no longer have iconic and charismatic leaders, and they have not carried out any major attacks recently," he adds.
A Daesh spokesman said the new leader "is one of the veteran warriors and one of the loyal sons" of the organisation. As the Associated Press notes, none of the al-Quraishi are believed to be related. Qurashi refers to a tribe of the Prophet Muhammad from which jihadist leaders claim descent. Thus, 'al-Qurashi' serves as a nom de guerre for Daesh leaders.
In fact, Abu al-Hassan's predecessor called himself Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. Abu Ibrahim was killed earlier this year during a US operation in Idlib province in northern Syria. Abu Ibrahim was appointed leader of Daesh in 2019, following the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also killed in Idlib. Al-Baghdadi has been one of the organisation's most prominent leaders since he announced the creation of the 'caliphate' from the Grand Mosque in Mosul in 2014. Al-Baghdadi, for whom the US offered a $25 million reward, came to be considered the world's most wanted man.
Under al-Baghdadi's leadership, Daesh captured areas of Iraq and Syria and subdued them through violence based on its extremist interpretation of Islam. In addition to massacring ethnic and religious groups in the region, such as the Yazidis, the jihadists also organised brutal terrorist attacks in cities such as Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Berlin and Istanbul.
The decline of the terrorist group in Iraq came in 2017, when national and international forces defeated the jihadists in Mosul. The Iraqi city on the banks of the Tigris River witnessed the beginning of the caliphate, as well as its end. Later in 2019, US-backed Syrian fighters liberated the last Daesh-held area in Deir ez-Zor province.
Since then, Daesh members have carried out sporadic attacks, particularly against Iraqi and Syrian security forces. Earlier this year, Daesh carried out an attack on a prison in Hasaka, northern Syria. This operation - considered the most important since the group's defeat - was aimed at freeing jihadists from the prison. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), 246 jihadists, 79 members of the Kurdish forces and seven civilians were killed during the attack.