Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed his forces “neutralised” the suspected leader of ISIS in Syria on Sunday.
The President told local media Abu Hussein al-Qurayshi, who is believed to have taken charge of ISIS forces following the previous leader’s death in a raid early last year, was killed in a Turkish MIT intelligence agency operation.
His claim is yet to be independently verified.
President Erdogan said MIT had been following al-Qurayshi for a “long time,” and his nation would continue to track and hunt suspected terrorists.
“We will continue our struggle with terrorist organisations without any discrimination,” he said.
Turkey has been active in Syria since 2016 when the Syrian Civil War fractured the country and provided terrorist groups with an opportunity to seize a foothold.
It has sponsored a number of rebel cells in their fight against the Syrian Assad Regime as well as battling ISIS and several ethnic Kurdish groups Turkey designates as terrorist organisations.
If the latest raid on ISIS is verified it would represent a further blow to the organisation which has lost ground and successive leaders since the peak of its power in 2015.
A joint operation led by the United States, followed by Russia’s intervention in the Syrian War, crippled the terrorist group and left it clinging to isolated pockets of territory in Syria and Iraq.
The group appointed a new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, in 2019 after an American raid claimed the life of their previous head, but were then forced to appoint another successor after a further raid resulted in his death in February last year.
What effect the loss of yet another leader will have is still unclear, but analysts do not expect the group to disband or fracture at present.
President Erdogan announced the news as he continues his campaign for re-election, with many in Turkey still angered over his government’s response to a massive earthquake which killed thousands in February.
The President had been forced to cancel a number of campaign events in recent days after becoming ill with what his Health Minister described as a “gastrointestinal infection.”
Polling from the country showed a slight lead for his main challenger amid an economic downturn which is worsening the lives of many still trying to rebuild after losing homes and loved ones in the quake.
President Erdogan has been in power since 2003, initially as Prime Minister before rising to the Presidency in 2014. He has been criticised by some for his perceived shift toward more authoritarian rule and a hollowing out of government.
News Source: www.skynews.com.au