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Islamic State leader killed in Syria: Turkish President Erdoğan


ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that Turkish intelligence forces killed Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi in Syria.

“This individual was neutralized yesterday as part of an operation carried out by Turkey’s national intelligence organization in Syria,” Erdoğan said in an interview with TRT Turk TV channel.

Erdoğan said the intelligence organization has been pursuing Qurashi for a long time.

Syrian local and security sources said the raid took place in the town of Jandaris in northern Syria, which is controlled by rebel groups backed by Turkey and was one of the most affected by the February 6 earthquake that hit both Turkey and Syria.

The Syrian National Army, an opposition faction with a security presence in the area, did not immediately comment.

A resident said clashes began near Jandaris overnight from Saturday to Sunday, lasting about an hour before residents heard a large explosion.

The area was then surrounded by security forces to prevent anyone from approaching it.

IS chose al-Qurashi as its leader in November after the former IS leader was killed in an operation in southern Syria.

The Islamic State took control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and its leader at the time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an Islamic caliphate in territory that was home to millions.

But IS lost its grip on the territory after campaigns by US-backed forces in Syria and Iraq, as well as Syrian forces backed by Iran, Russia and various paramilitaries.

Its thousands of remaining militants have been hiding in recent years mostly in the remote hinterlands of both countries, though they are still capable of carrying out major hit-and-run attacks.

The US-led coalition alongside a Kurdish-led alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces is still carrying out raids against IS officials in Syria.

In some cases, senior IS operatives have been targeted while hiding in areas where Turkey wields major influence.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.