Erdogan says Turkey killed Daesh leader in Syria operation

Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency has killed the suspected leader of Daesh in an operation in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday.

“The suspected leader of Daesh, codename Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, has been neutralized in an operation carried out yesterday (Saturday) by the MIT in Syria,” he announced on television.

On November 30, Daesh announced the death of its previous leader Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, and replaced him with Abu Hussein al-Qurashi.

An AFP correspondent in northern Syria said Sunday that Turkish intelligence agents and local military police, backed by Turkey, had on Saturday sealed off a zone in Jandaris, in the northwest region of Afrin.

Local residents said an operation had targeted an abandoned farm that was being used as an Islamic school.

One resident told journalists clashes started on the edge of Jandaris overnight from Saturday into Sunday, lasting for about an hour before residents heard a large explosion.

Daesh took over vast swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and its head at the time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an Islamic caliphate across territory that housed millions.

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

The group still has a few thousand militants who are believed to be hiding in remote hinterlands of both countries.

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

In some cases, senior IS figures have been targeted while hiding out in areas where Turkey has major influence.

Turkey has deployed troops in northern Syria since 2020, and controls entire zones with the help of Syrian auxiliaries.

When it was at the height of its power, controlling swathes of Iraq and Syria, Daesh claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Europe. But in October 2019, Washington announced it had killed Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an operation in northwestern Syria.