Islamic State Spokesman Killed in U.S. Airstrike

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U.S. forces focused and killed Islamic State’s spokesman in a strike in northeast Syria, a senior State Department official confirmed, an operation that intently adopted the raid in which the militant group’s chief died.

The official on Monday described

Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir

as “kind of No. 2” in Islamic State.

The militant group, reeling from the lack of its self-declared caliphate and now its chief and his spokesman in separate raids, is now contemplating a successor because it reverts again right into a guerrilla insurgency.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who President Trump stated blew himself up with a suicide vest throughout a U.S. raid over the weekend, guided Islamic State to impose its rule over huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. But controlling a lot territory is not an choice for the group, which was pushed out of its final strongholds this yr. That means its subsequent chief might want to deal with provocations elsewhere in a bid to keep up assist.

Islamic State has but to verify information of Baghdadi’s loss of life, or give any indication of who will succeed him. But some analysts and U.S. officers say the extremely bureaucratic group is certain to have deliberate for its chief’s loss of life.

The operations towards Baghdadi and Muhajir had “effectively disabled top ISIS leadership” who have been hiding in northwest Syria, stated

Mustafa Bali,

a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Muhajir had been thought-about a doable successor till he was focused, stated

Fawaz Gerges,

a professor of Middle Eastern politics on the London School of Economics and creator of “The Rise and Fall of al Qaeda.” He famous that Muhajir married Baghdadi’s daughter.

Now, one doable successor is Iraqi militant

Hajji Abdullah,

who was added to the U.S. Treasury’s Rewards for Justice record in August. The Treasury described him as certainly one of Islamic State’s most senior ideologues, one who helped drive and justify the kidnapping, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi non secular minority in northern Iraq. He can be believed to supervise a few of the group’s world terrorist operations. A $5 million bounty has been supplied for data resulting in his seize.

President Trump hailed the loss of life of Islamic State’s chief as a serious victory, however Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s demise may provoke extra violence.

Another incessantly talked about successor is

Iyad al-Obaidi,

Islamic State’s protection minister and a veteran of late Iraqi chief Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

An aerial image taken Monday reveals the spot the place Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir was reportedly focused close to the border with Turkey.


Photo:

aref tammawi/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Some analysts who observe Islamic State, nonetheless, stated the secretive nature of the group’s management made it tough to foretell who would take over.

“When Baghdadi became leader, nobody really knew who he was,” stated

Aaron Y. Zelin,

a fellow on the Washington Institute for Near Policy. “It’s quite possible somebody could rise that we don’t really know about.” He stated rumors that Hajji Abdullah traced his lineage from the Quraysh tribe, from which Baghdadi additionally claimed descent, may assist him qualify as caliph.

More on Islamic State’s Baghdadi

Secrecy has protected the group’s leaders from being focused as an array of forces moved in on its territory. The group is reeling from the lack of its self-proclaimed caliphate this yr however has reverted to rebel techniques. On Monday, the group’s information company, Amaq, issued routine statements about assaults towards its enemies in Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt, making no point out of its slain chief.

Some supporters sought to minimize the affect of his loss whereas awaiting a proper announcement.

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“Beware of those who try to paint the caliphate through specific individuals…it won’t die with the death of any man,” stated one message posted on-line by an Islamic State supporter, in keeping with SITE Intelligence Group, which screens jihadist postings. Others refused to consider their chief may very well be lifeless.

Fresh turmoil in Syria after the U.S. started withdrawing troops may create gaps for the group to take advantage of. The Trump administration begun transferring out roughly 1,000 troops who supported the Kurds in the battle towards Islamic State this month.

Washington initially stated it will hold some troopers in the area to safeguard Syrian oil fields, however on Monday indicated that remaining U.S. forces would proceed with the unique mission to battle terrorism in Syria, alongside the Kurds and different allies.

The newest plan was developed after the U.S. and Russia every negotiated protected zones alongside the Turkish border, the senior State Department official stated.

“We were faced with a very chaotic situation once the Turks went in,” the official stated. “Then, as smoke cleared, we adjusted that, a little bit, to make clear that we were going to keep some forces on, to continue the mission that we’ve been doing since 2014.”

The State Department official stated the U.S. would additionally proceed to assist a political answer for Syria by way of the just lately shaped Syrian constitutional committee in Geneva.

The SDF, which labored with the U.S. in the conflict towards Islamic State, has shifted its consideration to preventing Turkey. The U.S. withdrawal left its associate uncovered to assault by Turkey, which considers the Kurdish fighters as terrorists, spurring them to ask Syrian authorities forces into their areas.

Syrian authorities forces clashed with Turkish-backed rebels on Monday in the jap countryside of Ras al-Ain, in keeping with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an impartial conflict monitor. The SDF stated that regardless of its adherence to an settlement between Ankara and Moscow to withdraw its fighters from the border space, Turkish-backed rebels continued to press the assault.

“Turkey has no intention to stop fighting despite announced agreement,” Mr. Bali stated.

Turkish authorities didn’t instantly reply to messages looking for remark.

Despite the chaos, the U.S. has proven it may well go after different Islamic State leaders, compounding the challenges for the group.

Some dissent inside the ranks is feasible because the succession course of unfolds, Mr. Gerges stated, particularly amongst lieutenants who may blame high Islamic State leaders for the lack of the caliphate. Still, the group stays intact as a harmful group, and day after day operations received’t change, he stated.

“ISIS has already morphed into an insurgency,” he stated. “It has functionary lieutenants are in charge of their own fiefdoms.”

Write to Isabel Coles at isabel.coles@wsj.com and Jessica Donati at jessica.donati@wsj.com

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