The spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) was killed on Sunday in northern Syria, a top Kurdish official said, hours after the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced dead.
The official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak on the issue – said ISIL spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was killed after SDF chief Mazloum Abdi said he was “targeted” in a fresh raid.
“Al-Muhajir, the right-hand of Baghdadi and the spokesman for IS, was targeted in the village of Ain al-Baydah near Jarablus, in a coordinated operation between SDF intelligence and the US army,” Abdi said on Twitter.
ISIS spox. Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajer was killed in an airstrike while traveling in an oil tanker in village of Ayn al-Bayda in Turkish-controlled Jarablus. pic.twitter.com/HQBt7XAh8r
— Bahtiyar Umut (@baxtiyarumut) October 27, 2019
An AFP news agency correspondent in Ain al-Baydah, which is controlled by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, said two vehicles, a small pick-up truck and a larger truck carrying a small metal container, were hit in air strikes.
He saw two corpses lying outside the first vehicle while a third charred body was in the metal container. He could not identify who was behind the strikes or if they were carried out by warplanes or a drone.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the death of al-Muhajir, saying he was among five ISIL members who were killed in a US-led operation backed by the SDF.
Later, in a post on Twitter, SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said: “We believe ISIS spox. Al-Muhajir was in Jarablus to facilitate Baghdadi’s entry to Euphrates Shield area,” referring to a zone in northern Syria controlled by Turkey’s Syria proxies.
“The two US-led operations have effectively disabled top ISIS leadership who were hiding” in northwest Syria. “More still remain hiding in the same area,” Bali said.
Earlier on Sunday, US President Donald Trump said al-Baghdadi was killed in a daring, night time raid by US special forces deep in northwest Syria.
Trump said that US forces killed a “large number” of ISIL fighters during the raid, which culminated in Baghdadi cornered in a dead-end tunnel along with three of his children, where he detonated a suicide vest.
The operation to kill al-Baghdadi took place near a small village in northwest Syria called Barisha, more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Ain al-Baydah.
The special operations mission included eight helicopters descending on the compound where he had been holed up amid gunfire that Trump said was “immediately terminated” by US gunships.
The ISIL “caliphate” was eradicated in March, nearly five years after it was proclaimed by al-Baghdadi, largely reducing the group’s fighters to scattered sleeper cells.