ISIS confirms death of al-Baghdadi, announces new leader
ISIS spokesman identifies new leader as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi
ISIS declared a new leader Thursday after it confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi days earlier in a U.S raid in Syria.
In its audio release by ISIS's central media arm, al-Furqan Foundation, a new spokesman for ISIS identifies the successor as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi — tracing his lineage, like al-Baghdadi, to the Prophet Muhammad's Quraysh tribe.
It provided no other details about al-Qurayshi, and it was not immediately clear who the name was in reference to. The group typically identifies its leaders using pseudonyms that refer to their tribal affiliation and lineage. Those names often change.
The speaker in the audio also confirmed the death of Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, a close aide of al-Baghdadi and a spokesperson for the group since 2016.
Al-Muhajir was killed in a joint U.S. operation with Kurdish forces in Jarablus in northern Syria on Sunday, hours after al-Baghdadi blew himself up during a U.S. raid in Syria's northwestern Idlib province.
The killings were a double blow to the extremist group, nearly seven months after its territorial defeat in Syria.
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The new spokesman, named Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, urged followers to pledge allegiance to the new caliph and addressed the Americans, saying: "Don't rejoice."
"The Shura Council met immediately after confirming the martyrdom of Sheik Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The leaders of the mujahedeen agreed after consultation with their brethren and acting according to the will [of al-Baghdadi] they pledged allegiance to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi as the new leader of the believers."
The new leader is identified as a scholar, a well-known warrior and "emir of war" who has battled U.S. forces and knows "its wars."
'Don't rejoice' over al-Baghdadi's death
An ISIS spokesman warned the United States in the tape to "beware vengeance [against] their nation and their brethren of infidels and apostates."
"So don't rejoice America for the death of Sheik al-Baghdadi," the speaker in the audio said.
"Don't you know America that the state [ISIS] today is at the doorstep of Europe and is in Central Africa? It is also expanding and remaining from east to west." The speaker was referencing the slogan ISIS used at the height of its successes: "Remaining and expanding."
Al-Baghdadi's death is likely to cause ISIS to splinter, leaving whoever emerges as its new leader with the task of pulling the group back together as a fighting force, according to analysts.
Whether the loss of its leader will in itself affect the group's capabilities is open to debate. Even if it does face difficulties in the transition, the underlying ideology and the sectarian hatred it promoted remain attractive to many, analysts say.
ISIS fighters have resorted to guerrilla attacks since losing its last significant piece of territory in Syria in March.
Since al-Baghdadi's death, it has posted dozens of claims of responsibility for attacks in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In his last purported audio message, released in September, al-Baghdadi said operations were taking place daily and urged freedom for women jailed in Iraq and Syria on suspicion of links to the group.
He also said the U.S. and its proxies had been defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that America had been "dragged" into Mali and Niger.