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ISIS ‘caliph’ killed in Syria – Erdogan

The leader of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, has allegedly been killed in an operation by Türkiye’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in Syria, becoming the terrorist group’s third self-proclaimed “caliph” to be eliminated in the past 15 months.

MIT agents had been tracking al-Qurashi “for a long time” and “neutralized” him on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview aired on Sunday by broadcaster TRT Turk.

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“We will continue our struggle with terrorist organizations without any discrimination,” he said.

The operation was reportedly carried out around 1 am on Saturday in a village near Jindires, about seven kilometers (four miles) from the Turkish border. Turkish forces surrounded a compound where al-Qurashi was believed to be staying and battled with IS fighters. The caliph refused to surrender, then detonated explosives that had been strapped to his body.

Al-Qurashi became the terrorist group’s fourth leader last November, after his predecessor, Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, was killed in battle. US military officials claimed that the previous al-Qurashi had been killed in mid-October by Syrian rebels in southern Syria’s Daraa province. He had been on the job for only about eight months, taking the helm after predecessor Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi killed himself and his wife and children during a raid in northern Syria by US special forces.

READ MORE: US continues to use terrorists in Syria – Russia

Although Türkiye’s anti-terrorism operations have focused largely on militant Kurdish groups, including the PKK, the Islamic State also has been a thorn in Ankara’s side, killing a combined 315 civilians in dozens of attacks. US-allied Syrian rebels accused Türkiye last year of giving IS a “safe zone” in northern Syria. Turkish officials dismissed the allegation as “utterly ridiculous.” Türkiye was one of the first countries to identify the Islamic State, then known as ISIS, as a terrorist organization, in 2013, and has been fighting the group for years.

This weekend’s MIT operation comes just two weeks before Türkiye’s presidential election. Erdogan will be seeking re-election in a battle with pro-Western opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Polls show that the race is currently a dead heat.

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