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World: Islamic State's second leader of the year killed in battle

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The leader of the Islamic State has been killed in battle, the group has announced.

Pic: AP © Associated Press Pic: AP

Abu al Hassan al Hashimi al Qurayshi is the second IS leader to be killed this year, at a time when the extremist group has been trying to rise again.

Its sleeper cells (smaller groups that remain dormant until instructed to act) have been carrying out deadly attacks in Iraq and Syria, and its affiliate in Afghanistan has also claimed responsibility for assaults that killed dozens in recent months.

"He died fighting the enemies of God killing some of them before being killed like a man on the battlefield," IS spokesman Abu Omar al Muhajer said.

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The US military said al Qurayshi was killed in mid-October, adding that the operation was conducted by Syrian rebels in the southern province of Daraa.

It was not clear why the announcement was made on Wednesday - more than a month after al Qurayshi was killed.

"We certainly welcome the news of the death of another IS leader. I don't have any additional operational details to provide at this time," said US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported in mid-October, that Syrian rebels killed a group of IS fighters in Daraa province.

They included a commander identified as an Iraqi citizen along with a Lebanese fighter and others, the observatory said.

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It added one of the IS fighters detonated an explosive belt he was wearing during the clash.

It has not been confirmed if this is the attack in which al Qurayshi was killed.

Al Qurayshi was not his real name

Little had been known about al Qurayshi, who took over the group's leadership following the death of his predecessor, Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurayshi, who was killed in a US raid in February in northwest Syria.

The two men are not believed to be related, with al Qurayshi not being their real name.

Abu al Hussein al Husseini al Qurayshi has been announced as the new head of the group.

The death marked a blow to IS, who were defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later.

Al Qurayshi is the third leader to be killed since founder Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was hunted down by US forces in a raid in October 2019.

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