Yesterday, the Islamic State released an audio message via its outlet al-Furqan Media, principally announcing the death of the previous caliph Abu al-Husayn al-Husayni al-Qurashi and the appointment of his successor Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Qurashi. While Turkey's president Erdogan initially claimed on 30 April 2023 that Turkish forces had killed Abu al-Husayn, the Islamic State claims in contrast that Abu al-Husayn was killed by the insurgent group Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (which has ties to Turkey and is the leading faction in northwest Syria) in Idlib countryside. The group then handed Abu al-Husayn's body to Turkey, allegedly to help Erdogan bolster his credibility as a figure standing for security in the run-up to the Turkish elections. For the Islamic State, this action is seen as even worse than voting in elections. On balance, the Islamic State's account of what happened to Abu al-Husayn should be seen as more credible than Erdogan's claims, as the organization has previously proven itself credible on the deaths of its leaders.
Other points of note from the speech:
- The previous spokesman Abu Omar al-Muhajir was captured by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, hence the new spokesman Abu Hudhayfa al-Ansari.
- Confirmation that Abu al-Husayn's predecessor -- Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi -- was killed fighting the Syrian government forces and local militiamen in Deraa province.
- Familiar talking points about the need for steadfastness, pledging allegiance to the new caliph (who is some unspecified veteran of the organization), promising to free the prisoners, and making threats to enemies such as the United States (and more specifically Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham in light of its role in killing Abu al-Husayn and other actions against the Islamic State).
- Iraq and Syria continue to remain 'Islamic State central' as the "abode of the caliphate."
To read the full annotated English translation of the speech, please click here.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is an Arabic translator and editor at Castlereagh Associates, a Middle East-focused consultancy, and a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum. He runs an independent newsletter at aymennaltamimi.substack.com.