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Who Will Replace Qurashi? Potential ISIS Leader Revealed In New Report

Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai is a top contender for the number one role at the Islamic State, according to New Lines Magazine.

New Lines Magazine has, in a recent report, narrowed down the possible successor to Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, the Islamic State (ISIS) leader killed during a raid by the United States Special Forces operations in northern Syria. 

The United States-based platform primarily covers issues in the Middle East. 

Editor-in-chief, Hassan Hassan, concluded in the report published on Wednesday Feb. 16, that Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai was the “likeliest candidate to replace Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, who blew himself up on Feb. 3”. Sumaidai is known by various aliases, including Ustadh Zaid, Abu Khattab al-Iraqi, Abu al-Moez al-Iraqi, and Abu Ishaq.

Sumaidai was said to have joined the Islamic State in 2013, “just before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi unified his Iraqi group with its then Syrian affiliate and renamed it the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

He was before then a member of Ansar al-Islam, “an old organisation in northern Iraq made up of Iraqi and Arab veterans of the jihad in Afghanistan and Chechnya, which existed under that name in 2001 and which emerged out of local extremist movements that fought against both the Kurds and Saddam Hussain throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s before the U.S. invasion of Iraq”. 

The report, which gathered information from people who knew him personally, stated that he had returned to Syria from Turkey about a year ago. 

His profile, Hassan added, indicates a new phase for ISIS and supports the view that the terror organisation “is running out of leaders from the founding years in 2003 and 2004″. 

Sumaidai is said to “have what it takes to reenergise the group’s base and claim legitimacy even more so than the previous leader”. 

Parts of the indication he was a top contender included his name being floated for the role of amir al-mu’minin (the leader of the faithful) in jihadist circles in Syria. 

Another strong indicator was his supposed ties as a descendant of the family of the Prophet Muhammad, a usual preference for an amir by groups like the Islamic State.

“The Islamic State is in more need today than ever to piggyback on such lineage credentials; and unlike with the previous leader, who many suspected was a Turkman and not an Arab, such bona fides are not in dispute,” reported New Lines Magazine.

HumAngle understands that despite the demise of al-Qurashi, ISWAP, the Islamic State affiliate operating in the Lake Chad region has maintained its fatal operations against security forces and categories of people the group considers legitimate targets. 

ISWAP, which is one of the most active Islamic State affiliates, is expected to swear allegiance when the next leader is announced.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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