Islamic State confirms al-Baghdadi's death, appoints new leader

AMMAN/BEIRUT, Nehal El-Sherif and Weedah Hamzah (dpa)- The Islamic State extremist group has confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and asked followers to pledge allegiance to his successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi.
"We mourn ... the Muslim's caliph, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," the group's spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi said in an audio message published by the group's media arm, al-Furqan.

In a message to the United States, the spokesman said: "Do not rejoice in the killing of Sheikh al-Baghdadi."
US President Donald Trump announced the death of al-Baghdadi on Sunday in a raid in north-east Syria, ending a years-long hunt for the militant who spearheaded a self-proclaimed caliphate that inspired violence around the world.
Aron Lund, a fellow with the think thank Century Foundation, told dpa "Islamic State leaders are known to change cover names from time to time, and sometimes when moving between positions, so it may be someone we've never heard about or it may be someone who was previously known under a different nom de guerre."
He said that the al-Hashemi and al-Qurashi parts of the name are intended to signal that he belongs to the Prophet Mohammed's tribe, which is seen as a requirement for him being caliph.
Al-Baghdadi was proclaimed the caliph, or leader, of the group in 2014 as Islamic State militants took over large parts of Syria and Iraq. Shortly after, al-Baghdadi made what is believed to be his only public appearance when he delivered a sermon at the al-Nuri mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
In December 2017, Iraq declared victory over the group, however, Islamic State operatives have since carried out several attacks and kidnappings targeting security forces and civilians in different parts of the country.
Syria's Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared victory earlier this year.
The spokesman reiterated al-Baghdadi's last message this year, when he asked his followers to free Islamic State members.
Many militants and their families have been held by the SDF in northern Syria.
The spokesman also confirmed the death of Abul Hassan al-Muhajir, who was a spokesman for the group.
Late Thursday,  Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in a first reaction on al Baghdadi's death said "as long as this thought is alive and has not receded, this means that the death of Baghdadi, or even the death of ISIS as a whole, will have no effect on this extremist thought."
Speaking in an interview with Syrian broadcasters al-Souria and Ikhbaraya, Al-Assad added that "Baghdadi will be recreated under a different name, a different individual ... The director of the whole scenario is the same, the Americans."

Friday, November 1st 2019
Nehal El-Sherif and Weedah Hamzah (dpa)

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