The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) confirmed the death of its leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi and announced the name of the new “caliph,” Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
On Aug. 3, ISIS spokesperson Abu Hudhayfah al-Ansari declared al-Hashimi as “the Emir of the Believers and Caliph of the Muslims,” the traditional Muslim titles for the caliph.
However, the official propaganda arm of ISIS, Al Furqan Media Foundation, denies that Abu al-Hussein was killed by Turkish Intelligence operatives, who had claimed to be responsible for his death earlier in 2023.
According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Abu al-Hussein blew himself up during the raid of a safe house in Jinderes, in the northeastern Syrian province of Aleppo, by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization.
According to ISIS, the caliph was killed by the rival group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the current iteration of the former al-Qaeda branch in Syria which later turned the body over to Turkey.
The Islamic State further announced that they were assisted in identifying Abu al-Hussein by former ISIS spokesperson Abu Umar al-Muhajir, who was captured earlier.
Abu al-Hussein al-Quraishi is the fourth ISIS leader killed since October 2019, when the first self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was eliminated.
ISIS “continues to face leadership challenges due to ongoing counter-terrorism pressure,” according to the UN Security Council Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.
Because of this, ISIS is forced “to adopt a flat command and control structure; the role of the overall leader has become less relevant to the group’s functioning,” read the recent July 25 report on the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
The head of ISiS’ General Directorate of Provinces (GDP) has been given increasing influence within the terror organization, especially in regard to the coordination of its numerous affiliates around the world through a system of so-called “regional offices.”
Former GDP head Ali Jasim Salman al-Juburi was killed in an airstrike in February 2023.
ISIS is therefore relocating some of its leaders from Idlib to the Syrian provinces of Dara’a and Badia, according to the Monitoring Team, and along the “Syrian-Iraqi border area with Anbar governorate, where the group is increasing activities and exploiting the porous border.”
The FDD report concludes that despite the latest attrition in leadership, ISIS operations are unlikely to be impacted significantly, as it learned to rely increasingly on leadership by the GDP, while its “caliphs” devolve into mere figureheads.
The FDD describes itself as “a research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy… with the aim of strengthening U.S. national security and reducing or eliminating threats posed by adversaries and enemies of the United States and other free nations.”