Trump didn’t specify who he was referring to, but the United States on Monday confirmed the killing of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, a spokesman for ISIS and also a high-ranking figure in the organization, Reuters reported.
A U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that al-Muhajir “would have been one of the potential successors” to al-Baghdadi, adding that “it could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks” before ISIS confirms a new leader.
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces chief Mazloum Abdi said the spokesman was “targeted” in a raid.
Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s number one replacement has been terminated by American troops. Most likely would have taken the top spot – Now he is also Dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2019
“Al-Muhajir, the right-hand of Baghdadi and the spokesman for [ISIS], was targeted in the village of Ain al-Baydah near Jarablus, in a coordinated operation between SDF intelligence and the U.S. army,” Abdi wrote, according to Al Jazeera.
A spokesperson with the Kurdish forces said that “two U.S.-led operations have effectively disabled top ISIS leadership who were hiding” in northern Syria, adding that many more are “hiding in the same area,” according to the report.
On Sunday, Trump confirmed the death of al-Baghdadi, saying that U.S. military forces tracked him down in northern Syria’s Idlib province before he was cornered in a tunnel. He then detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children.
We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi! pic.twitter.com/PDMx9nZWvw
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2019
DNA testing was immediately carried out to confirm his identity, Trump said.
The president later posted a photo on Twitter of a U.S. military dog that was involved in the raid.
“They blasted their way in, and then all hell broke loose. It’s incredible nobody was killed. Or hurt. We had nobody even hurt,” Trump said. “And that’s why the dog was so great.”
The killing of the top leadership will be devastating to ISIS, said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“This is a devastating blow. This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. [Al-Baghdadi] was an inspirational leader in many ways. He formed ISIS in 2014, he led to establishing the physical caliphate throughout the region, so this is a major blow to them,” Esper told CNN on Sunday.
He said Trump approved the raid last week, adding that the main objective was capturing him or killing him.
“The president approved a raid on the target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if we didn’t capture him, of course, we were going to kill him,” Esper said.