Islamic State on Thursday confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi, announced a successor and vowed to avenge the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed caliph.
In a 7½-minute audio recording, Islamic State named Abu Ibrahim Hashimi as its new leader and warned the U.S. to “not be happy or arrogant” over Baghdadi’s death. Attacks will continue “in vengeance” for Baghdadi, a spokesman said in the address.
Baghdadi was killed last weekend when he detonated a suicide vest as U.S. commandos closed in on his hideout in northwestern Syria. President Trump made the announcement Sunday, saying Baghdadi “died like a dog.”
Baghdadi, the subject of a multicountry manhunt, had been in hiding until the Delta Force raid on the village of Barisha last week. It was the extremist group’s first acknowledgment of Baghdadi’s death. The address was released on Islamic State’s social media channel on the Telegram messaging service.
Islamic State also acknowledged the killing of its spokesman Abu Hassan Muhajir, who died in a U.S. operation concurrent with the raid on Baghdadi in the northern Syrian city of Jarabulus. The speech was given by the group’s new spokesman, Abu Hamza Qurashi.
At its zenith, Islamic State controlled a third each of Iraq and Syria — creating a quasi-state it called its caliphate — with millions of people under its harsh rule. The last vestiges of that caliphate were destroyed in Syria early this year by a U.S.-led coalition.
Though Islamic State now holds no major territory, it has maintained a presence in sparsely populated areas in Iraq and Syria and has a force of 12,000 fighters in northeastern Syria. About 60,000 of their relatives are held in detention centers run by a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia. In the address, Qurashi exhorted Islamic State followers to wage attacks to release those detainees.
Little is known of Baghdadi’s successor. In the address, Hashimi was described as “one who has precedence in fighting the enemies of God” and an “emir among the emirs of war,” a reference to the term for the group’s commanders. He is said to have also fought the U.S., implying that he is a veteran of combat in Iraq.
Qurashi said Hashimi would make the U.S. taste “cups of bitterness.”
“Do you not realize, O America, that the Islamic State today stands at the threshold of Europe and the center of Africa?” said Qurashi, repeating the group’s slogan that it was “expanding and remaining.”
He also taunted Trump.
“And do you not see how you’ve become the joke of the nations,” said Qurashi, “your fate controlled by a stupid old man, who goes to sleep with one opinion and wakes up with another?”