As it’s senior ideologue, Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurayshi justified the group’s atrocities before leading its global operations after the group had suffered significant losses.
The leader of Daesh (ISIS) was killed in a bloody overnight US raid in northwestern Syria, according to US President Joe Biden.
“Thanks to the skill and bravery of our Armed Forces, we have taken off the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurayshi – the leader of Daesh. All Americans have returned safely from the operation,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
At least 13 children and women also died in the US counterterrorism operation in Syria’s Idlib province. The leader of the terrorist group detonated a bomb that killed himself and members of his own family “in a final act of desperate cowardice,” Biden added.
It was the biggest US raid in Syria’s Idlib province since 2019, when then-President Donald Trump ordered a strike that killed Daesh leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
Daesh named Qurayshi its leader following Baghdadi’s death.
Who was Qurayshi?
The 45-year-old, whom the US had a $10 million bounty on, took over leadership of the terror group at a time when Daesh was reduced to a smattering of sleeper cells after being territorially routed in Iraq and Syria, which it once controlled a third of at its peak.
Known by several nom de guerres according to US and Iraqi intelligence – Abdullah Qardash, Haji Abdullah and Abdul Rahman al Mawli al Salbi – there has generally been scant information available on Qurayshi.
The two surnames he adopted – Hashimi and Qurayshi – suggest descent from Quraysh and Hashemite clans, which claim direct lineage from the Prophet Muhammad, a requirement for any caliph.
A trove of documents and images made public by New Lines Magazine last April revealed him to be a leading figure among Iraqi extremist groups for over the last two decades who steadily worked his way up Daesh’s security and religious hierarchy.
His real name was Amir Muhammad Sa’id al Salbi al Mawla, born the youngest of seven sons in 1976 in Nineveh province. His father was a muezzin at the Furqan Mosque in Mosul.
However, his purported Turkmen background complicates any claim to be from the same tribe as the Prophet – and therefore, an Arab.
After graduating with a degree in Sharia law from the University of Mosul in 2000, he served in the Ba’athist Iraqi army as an officer.
Following the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule after the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US-led coalition forces, he joined Al Qaeda and quickly ascended through its ranks, serving as a religious commissary and Sharia jurist for the terror outfit.
It was believed that Qurayshi lived and gave frequent lectures in Mosul’s Furqan Mosque – the same one where his father gave sermons before his death in 2001.
He was first detained by the US in 2004, where he would meet the future Daesh leader Baghdadi. He was imprisoned again by the Americans in 2008 and jailed at Camp Bucca detention centre, where it was alleged that he served as a willing informant to the US military in Iraq.
During interrogations, he claimed to have joined Daesh in 2007 and that he was chosen as Baghdadi’s deputy the same year. In 56 declassified “tactical interrogation reports, Qurayshi was described as a model prisoner – and one who sang like a bird.
He gave up the names of 68 fellow comrades ‘jihadis’, including descriptions of their appearances (one was described as “chubby cheeks,” another who “waddles when he walks” and a third with a “pot belly”), earning him the moniker of “canary caliph”.
In 2009, he was released under uncertain circumstances. Following the winding down of US troops in Iraq by 2011, Qurayshi joined Baghdadi – who by then had assumed leadership of Daesh – as the group underwent a major restructuring, successfully attracting new members.
Nicknamed “the Destroyer,” he played a key role in the outfit’s capture of Mosul in 2014, and notoriously imposed religious rulings that endorsed the massacre of Iraq’s Yazidi minority during the height of Daesh’s onslaught in Iraq.
His decision to capture and enslave Yazidi women “under the guise of enforcing Shariah” created a “crisis that continues to unravel today,” wrote Feras Kilani in his biography on Qurayshi for New Lines.
But as the world’s most feared terror group began to lose control of significant territory in Iraq and Syria, it then suffered the death of Baghdadi in 2019. Qurayshi was appointed as the new caliph of the so-called "Islamic State" four days later – one which spurred controversy as to whether he was fit for the position, principally centred around his ethnicity.
Under his reign, the group reverted to insurgent tactics, carrying out assassinations and kidnappings in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq to help raise funds to continue their operations.
Qurayshi spent much of his time in hiding, and unlike his predecessor he never issued public statements nor made video appearances.
Just a week before his death, he oversaw one of the group’s biggest assaults since taking charge.
Last month, Daesh terrorists carried out a night-time raid on an Iraqi military base that killed eleven soldiers, as well as an attack on a Syrian prison holding thousands of the group’s supporters that lasted for ten days.
The prison was under YPG control, Syrian branch of the PKK, another internationally recognised terrorist organisation.
The prison raid led to the deaths of 77 militants, four civilians, and 374 prisoners and Daesh members.
The incidents pointed to a renewed propaganda push for the group, with concerns from counter-terrorist officials indicating Daesh was aiming to reconstitute and build greater capacity in Iraq and Syria.
There is no information yet on who Qurayshi’s successor will be.