ISIL chief is dead but threat of his group remains, leaders and analysts warn, as speculation over next leader begins.
Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, ISIL’s new spokesman, made the announcement on Thursday in an audio statement distributed by the group’s media arm, al-Furqan, days after a weekend raid by US forces that resulted in al-Baghdadi’s death.
“We mourn you … commander of the faithful,” he said, adding that ISIL’s legislative and consultative body convened after the 48-year-old Iraqi-born chief’s death.
“The Islamic State shura council convened immediately after confirming the martyrdom of Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the elders of the holy warriors agreed” on a replacement.
The seven-minute statement did not provide any other details about the new leader and it was not immediately clear who the name was in reference to. ISIL usually identifies its leaders using noms de guerre that refer to their tribal affiliation and lineage. Those names often change.
But the message called on the group’s followers to pledge allegiance to the new leader, whose title indicates that he claims descent from the tribe of Prophet Muhammad. Belonging to the Quraysh tribe has been seen as a prerequisite for becoming a caliph – a brief biography of al-Baghdadi posted to online forums in 2014 had traced his lineage to the tribe.
The statement also confirmed the death of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, the group’s spokesman and a close aide to al-Baghdadi
Al-Muhajir was killed in a joint US operation with Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian city of Jarablus hours after al-Baghdadi’s death.
The audio also addressed the United States, saying: “Do not rejoice America. The new chosen one will make you forget the horror you have beholden … and make the achievements of the Baghdadi days taste sweet.”
The Pentagon has released footage of the raid in which ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) October 31, 2019
Trump said the ISIL chief detonated a suicide vest after running into a dead-end tunnel beneath a compound.
ISIL’s rise and fall
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.
Harnessing the internet and encouraging followers from different parts of the world to join them, ISIL fighters carried out mass killings, beheadings and rape campaigns in Iraq and Syria, and inspired attacks beyond the Middle East.
In the following years, a series of offensives gradually stripped the group of its territory, with its fighters losing their final scrap of land in Syria in March this year.
Analysts say al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi will be the leader of a frayed organisation that has been reduced to scattered sleeper cells.