U.S. defense officials believe they have unmasked the Islamic State terror group’s current leader, until now known by his nom de guerre, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.
IS announced the selection of Qurashi as its new caliph this past October, just days after the death of former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. raid, but his true identity has been a question.
Voice of America reports:
Now, the U.S. has determined with confidence Qurashi is actually Hajji ‘Abdallah, according to a defense official who spoke to VOA on the condition of anonymity.
‘Abdallah, who also went by the name Amir Muhammad Said Abdal Rahman al-Mawla, is religious scholar who rose through the ranks of IS’ predecessor organization, al-Qaida in Iraq to eventually become, one of Baghdadi’s top deputies.
According to U.S. intelligence officials, ‘Abdallah was also a key architect of the Islamic State’s slaughter of the Yazidi religious minority and was charged with overseeing some of the terror group’s global operations.
U.S. defense and counterterrorism officials have long suspected Qurashi and ‘Abdallah were one and the same, describing him as a “logical choice” to lead IS, but until now have been reticent to say so definitively.
The U.S. assessment of Qurashi’s true identity is in line with the assessments of other intelligence agencies, though some still have reservations because of his ethnic heritage.
“His Turkmen ethnicity led some Member States to assess that he might only be a temporary choice,” according to a new U.N. report on the terror group, questioning whether he could truly claim descent from the Qurashi Hashemite tribe, a quality IS sees as a requirement for any caliph.
IS quickly tried to quash any doubts or dissent, launching a social media campaign showing photos of IS fighters from Africa to the Philippines pledging bay’ah, or loyalty, to the new leader.