Suspected Islamic State terrorist leader arrested in Iraq, reports say

Trump says Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s probable replacement killed by US troops

The Iraqi military has arrested a suspected leader of the Islamic State in Iraq, according to unconfirmed news reports.

The suspected terrorist was first identified by Iraqi Intelligence Agency as current ISIS commander Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, but the military later clarified that the person in custody was actually Abd Nasser Qardash or Abdel Nasser Qirdash, a potential successor of the group’s first leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Some news outlets in the region say Qardash is the highest ranking Islamic State officer to ever be taken into custody.

Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, the current leader of the Islamic State of Iraq jihadist group, is not in custody as first reported by Sky News Arabia, citing the Iraqi National Intelligence Service.

Al-Qurashi was named the interim leader of the ISIS terrorist organization in 2019, less than a week after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself October 26 as U.S. special forces closed in on his compound in northwest Syria.

Cornered, al-Baghdadi and his wife both fled to a tunnel and detonated explosive vests they were wearing.

Al-Qurashi soon named the group’s second leader, or caliph.

News reports from around the region say al-Qurashi was taken into custody Wednesday by the Iraqi military.

Iraq intelligence services released a photo of a somber and thin Qardash, standing alone in a room in a flannel long-sleeve with his hands by his side.

Three days after al-Baghdadi’s death, President Donald Trump announced that his replacement had been killed by U.S. troops, although he did not specify who had been killed.

“Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s number one replacement has been terminated by American troops,” the president wrote in a tweet on Oct. 29. “Most likely would have taken the top spot — Now he is also Dead!”

Trump’s announcement that Baghdadi’s replacement was killed was never publicly confirmed, but at the time, Reuters reported that the U.S. had confirmed the killing of Islamic State spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, the current leader of ISIS, was born as Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi in Tel Afar, Iraq.

After graduating from the University of Mosul, he served as an officer in Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist army. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, he joined Al-Qaeda, and was detained in 2004 by U.S. forces in Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq where he met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Baghdadi, an Iraqi national and ultraconservative cleric, led the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for more than five years, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers to a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

He committed countless atrocities and human rights violations including the genocide of Yazidis in Iraq, extensive sexual slavery, organized rape, floggings, and systematic executions.

He also directed terrorist activities and massacres as well as embracing brutality as part of the organization's propaganda efforts, producing videos displaying sexual slavery and executions via hacking, stoning, and burning.

— This is a breaking news story. Please come back to AJC.com for the latest developments.

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