ISTANBUL, April 30 (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish intelligence forces had killed Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi in Syria.
“This person was neutralized yesterday as part of an operation by the Turkish National Intelligence Service in Syria,” Erdogan said in an interview with broadcaster TRT Turk.
Erdogan said the spy agency had been following Qureshi for a long time.
Syrian local and security sources said the raid took place in the northern Syrian city of Jandaris, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel groups and was one of the worst hit by the February 6 earthquake in both Turkey and Syria.
The Syrian National Army, an opposition faction with a security presence in the area, had no immediate comment.
A resident said the clashes started on the outskirts of Zantaris overnight from Saturday to Sunday, lasting about an hour before residents heard a loud explosion.
The security forces then cordoned off the area to prevent anyone from entering.
In November 2022, IS elected al-Qurashi as its leader after the previous IS leader was killed in an operation in southern Syria.
Islamic State seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, when its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an Islamic caliphate across the territory, home to millions of people.
But IS lost its hold after campaigns in Syria and Iraq by US-backed forces and Syrian forces backed by Iran, Russia and various paramilitary forces.
Its remaining thousands of fighters have largely hid in the remote hinterlands of both countries in recent years, though they are still capable of large-scale hit-and-run attacks.
The US-led coalition, along with a Kurdish-led coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is still conducting attacks against IS officials in Syria.
In some cases, senior IS figures have been targeted while hiding in areas of heavy Turkish influence.
Report by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Lisa Schumacher
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