ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish intelligence had killed Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi in Syria.
“This person was neutralized as part of an operation carried out by the Turkish National Intelligence Service in Syria yesterday,” Erdogan said in an interview with Turkish television TRT.
Erdogan said that the intelligence services have been pursuing al-Qurashi for a long time.
Syrian local and security sources said that the raid took place in the town of Jandris in northern Syria, which is controlled by opposition factions backed by Turkey, and was one of the most affected areas in the February 6 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
The Syrian National Army, an opposition faction with a security presence in the area, did not immediately comment.
One of the residents said that the clashes started on the edge of Jandris at night from Saturday to Sunday, and lasted about an hour before residents heard a big explosion.
Security forces later cordoned off the area to prevent anyone from approaching it.
ISIS chose al-Qurashi as its leader in November 2022 after the previous ISIS leader was killed in an operation in southern Syria.
The Islamic State group seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and its leader at the time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an Islamic caliphate across territory inhabited by millions.
But ISIS has lost its grip on the region after campaigns by US-backed forces in Syria and Iraq, as well as Syrian forces backed by Iran and Russia and various paramilitary factions.
The remaining thousands of its fighters have in recent years gone into hiding in the remote hinterland of both countries, though they are still capable of carrying out major hit-and-run attacks.
The US-led coalition along with the Kurdish-led coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continues to carry out strikes against ISIS officials in Syria.
In some cases, senior ISIS figures have been targeted while hiding out in areas where Turkey has significant influence.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun) Editing by Lisa Schumacher
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