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Iraq arrests possible IS candidate to succeed Baghdadi

IANS | May 21, 2020 11:43 AM

BAGHDAD:A key Islamic State (IS) leader identified as Abdel Nasser Qardash, thought to be a possible candidate to succeed the terror groups late leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been arrested in Iraq, the country's intelligence services said on Thursday

In a statement, the Iraqi Security Information Cell confirmed the arrest ofQardash, who it said had a major role in the Battle of Baghuz in March 2019, in which the IS lost its last remaining stronghold in Syria, reports Efe news.

The Iraqi forces said that Qardash was responsible for the manufacture and development of mustard gas for use inside Iraq; that Baghdadi made him the emir of manufacturing and development; and that he was sent to Syria to manufacture weapons, explosives and equipment.

At various points he was also a governor, was involved in attacks on Kobane, Palmyra, Aleppo and Damascus, and was the supervisor of all administrative boards and the organization's manufacturing and processing sections, the statement added.

It also highlighted the commitment of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service to pursue members of these terrorist groups and "hunt them one by one and bring them to justice".

The news of the arrest was reported by the Al Iraqiya newspaper and the INA news agency, which said Qardash was a candidate to be the new caliph after the death of Baghdadi last October in a US operation in the north of Syria.

In October 2019, US President Donald Trump announced that the US Special Operations Forces conducted an overnight raid targeting al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria, during which the IS leader killed himself by igniting a suicide vest.

Al-Baghdadi, 48, whose real name is Ibrahim Awad al-Badri, announced the establishment of a caliphate, or the so-called IS, in June 2014.

After Baghdadi's death, the IS announced the appointment of Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi as the new "emir of believers and caliph of jihadis".

Qurashi has never appeared in a voice or video recordings broadcast through the IS propaganda media as Baghdadi did, and his appearance and location have remained secret.

Western intelligence services have doubts about the authenticity of his name since it does not match that of any known senior commander under Baghdadi.

Qardash is one of the names attributed to the new IS leader in Iraq, where the extremist group has stepped up its operations in the past few weeks, coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The Iraqi security forces and intelligence have had information for weeks of the presence of this leader in Iraq and have tracked his location, sources from the Joint Operations Command of the Iraqi Forces told Efe news earlier this month.

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