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US officials challenge Turkey’s claim to have killed Islamic State leader

US officials suggest that the Syrian jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham really was behind the death of Islamic State leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi.
RAMI AL SAYED/AFP via Getty Images

LONDON/WASHINGTON — The Islamic State confirmed the death of its most recent leader, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi, on Aug. 3. The jihadist group said its self-styled “caliph” had been killed in clashes with the rival Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the al-Qaeda offshoot that is dominant in Syria’s Idlib province, and not by Turkey back in April, as Ankara previously claimed. IS said HTS, which it called "Turkey's tail," had handed his body over to Turkish intelligence in a recorded message posted on the Telegram messaging app.

Biden administration officials speaking to Al-Monitor not for attribution confirmed that the IS leader had not been slain by Turkey. “Turkey lied,” one of the officials said. One US military official phrased things more diplomatically, telling Al-Monitor this week that there was reason to doubt Turkey’s claim, adding that IS’ allegation of HTS responsibility was seen as credible.

IS said it had named Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Quraishi as its new leader, the fifth since the founding of the group. It did not specify when his predecessor had been killed. Typically IS does not confirm the death of its leader until the group has selected a new one. A senior US military official speaking on condition of anonymity at the Pentagon earlier this month said Washington was aware of the leadership change before it was announced.

In June, the United Nations Security Council aired members’ doubts about who was responsible.

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