The Islamic State group has confirmed for the first time its leader was killed in a US strike in Syria last month and named his successor.
It is the first official comment from the militant group about its leader Abu Ibrahim Al-hashimi Al-Quraishi since US officials said he blew himself up along with members of his family as American forces raided his hideout.
The raid occurred in the northwest Syrian town of Atmeh, near the border with Turkey, on February 3.
In an audio message released on Thursday, IS spokesman Abu Omar al-Muhajer confirmed the death of the leader, as well as that of the group’s former spokesman in the raid.
Al-Muhajer also said IS has named a successor to the former leader, identifying him as Abu Al-Hassan Al-hashemi Al-Quraishi and saying the late IS chief has chosen him as the next caliph.
None of the Al-Quraishis are believed to be related. Al-Quraishi is not their real name but comes from Quraish, the name of the tribe that Islam’s prophet Mohammed belonged to.
IS claims its leaders hail from this tribe and “Al-Quraishi” serves as part of an IS leader’s nom de guerre.
“He has accepted the leadership,” al-Muhajer said of the new IS chief, without providing his real name.
In the US raid, about 50 special operations forces landed in helicopters and attacked a house in a rebel-held corner of Syria, clashing for two hours with gunmen.
Residents described continuous gunfire and explosions that jolted Atmeh near the Turkish border, an area dotted with camps for internally displaced from Syria’s civil war.