US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the person likely to be first in line to replace the slain leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has also been “terminated”.
“Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi‘s number one replacement has been terminated by American troops. Most likely would have taken the top spot – Now he is also Dead!” Trump tweeted.
Trump did not identify the person or give more detail on how the individual was killed.
Separately on Monday, the United States confirmed the killing of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, ISIL spokesman and a high-ranking figure within the group.
Al-Baghdadi was killed in a night-time US military operation in northwest Syria, Trump confirmed on Sunday.
Since the operation, world leaders and regional analysts have warned that even with al-Baghdadi’s death, ISIL would remain a threat worldwide.
Under al-Baghdadi’s command, ISIL became one of the most brutal armed groups in modern history and, at its peak, its self-declared caliphate covered territory across Iraq and Syria roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom.
It remains unclear who will take over the command. ISIL social media channels have not confirmed Trump’s Sunday announcement, nor alluded to potential successors.
Analysts have speculated that the list of potential successors is likely to be short. Many have pointed to Abu Othman al-Tunsi, a Tunisian national who heads ISIL’s Shura Council, a legislative and consultative body, according to Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on ISIL.
Speaking to AFP news agency, al-Hashemi said Abu Saleh al-Juzrawi, known as Hajj Abdullah, may also take the lead. Al-Juzrawi is a Saudi national who runs ISIL’s so-called Delegated Committee, al-Hashemi said.
Speculation has also centred on Abdullah Qardash – a former Iraqi military officer jailed with al-Baghdadi in the US-run Iraqi prison of Camp Bucca.
Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from Turkey’s Reyhanli on the border with Syria earlier this week, referred to a months-old statement attributed to the ISIL propaganda arm Amaq but never officially adopted by the group that said Qardash had been selected as the leader of even before Trump declared al-Baghdadi dead.
But some analysts have said the statement on Qardash’s promotion was fake.
Citing Iraqi intelligence sources, al-Hashemi said that Qardash had been dead since 2017.