New Daesh leader arrested in Istanbul

According to the Turkish news portal OdaTV, Abu al-Hassan al-Qurashi, head of the organisation since last March, was reportedly arrested in Istanbul during a secret international operation

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   File photo. A Daesh member waves the Daesh flag in Syria

Abu al-Hassan al-Qurashi, appointed last March as successor to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as head of Daesh, has been arrested in the Turkish capital of Istanbul during a secret international operation. This was made public by the renowned Turkish journalist Toygun Atilla - who has important relations with the Ottoman police - on the news portal OdaTV. 

According to Atilla, the arrest of the Islamist leader took place last week at the house where he was hiding in a neighbourhood of the capital, which has not yet been released to the media. After police forces had placed al-Hassan al-Qurashi under surveillance for several days, anti-terrorist police and national intelligence officers - led by police chief Zafer Aktaş - stormed the house and captured him without any resistance. 

PHOTO/AFP - The house where former Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi resided in Syria

Although other media outlets such as Bloomberg have so far been unable to verify the identity of the detainee, several officials have backed up these claims by explaining that he is "the man they believe has led the extremist organisation since the assassination of its former leader"

Following the operation, which was planned and carried out in the utmost secrecy, al-Hassan al-Qurashi was subjected to interrogation, which, according to OdaTV, has yielded vital data and information about the terrorist organisation. 

This arrest of what could become the most ephemeral leader of ISIS since 2014 - when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself the first caliph of the self-styled Islamic State - would consolidate Turkey as one of the key countries in the global fight against terrorism. Istanbul has been making many important efforts in this regard in recent years. 

PHOTO/FILE/VOA - Daesh flag

One of the scenes of these efforts has been the province of Idlib, in the northwest of Syria and very close to the Turkish border, where one of the last pockets of al-Qaeda's Islamist resistance is located. And where, precisely, US counter-terrorism operations in 2019 and 2022 killed the two Daesh leaders who were the predecessors of al-Hassan al-Qurashi: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi respectively.

Meanwhile, according to OdaTV, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is already aware of the operation, will address the media in the coming days to announce the arrest and provide further details about it. 

PHOTO/REUTERS - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in Istanbul
Who is Abu al-Hassan al-Qurashi?

Juma Awad al-Badri, who according to several investigations is the real name of Abu al-Hassan al-Qurashi, became one of the five candidates to succeed the former Daesh leader after his death in February 2022. "The Islamic State's Shura Council was quick, after the death of Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, to appoint the jihadist Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Qurashi as emir of the believers," proclaimed Abu Omar al-Muhager, the organisation's new spokesman, in an audio message broadcast through his audio-visual production company Al-Furqan.

PHOTO/via TWITTER - Former Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi ended his life by detonating an explosive waistcoat during a US counterterrorism operation, 3 February 2022

However, according to Reuters news agency, al-Hassan al-Qurashi's links to the jihadist leadership may be much stronger. Juma Awad al-Badri is said by Iraqi officials to Reuters to be the brother of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Iraqi-born leader comes from a circle of battle-hardened military men who emerged after the US invasion in 2003. "He is a radical who joined Salafist [terrorist] groups in 2003 and is known to have always accompanied Baghdadi as a personal companion and Islamic legal adviser," explained one of the Iraqi officials interviewed by Reuters on condition of anonymity. 

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE/via REUTERS - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself caliph of the self-styled Islamic State in 2014. Like his successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, al-Baghdadi blew himself up when U.S. military forces cornered him in his hideout on Oct. 26, 2019 in Syria's Idlib province

His career in the organisation - where he is considered one of the 'Iraqi princes' (one of the few surviving first-class Iraqi-born leaders in Iraq who hold the most powerful positions within ISIS) - has taken him through the positions of Emir of the Court of Justice, head of the Emirate of the Central Office for the Follow-up of Legal Diwans, or Emir of the Diwan of Education. These positions legitimised him to become the new leader of Daesh, and, as with all members of the organisation's leadership, allowed him to use numerous names and nicknames to protect his identity and avoid the intelligence services.