The terrorist most likely to succeed al-Baghdadi after U.S. military forces took him down on Saturday, Oct. 24, has also been killed in a separate raid.
Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, married to one of Baghdadi’s daughters, was the primary spokesman for ISIS; he was killed in northern Syria one day after Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest in a tunnel after U.S. military cornered him there.
Al-Muhajir was attempting to flee across northern Syria, hidden in the back of an oil tanker truck when it appears a U.S. airstrike hit the vehicle, a senior State official confirmed, reported the WSJ.
According to the U.S. official in an interview on Monday, Oct. 28, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir “would have been one of the potential successors” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “It could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks” before Islamic State announces a new leader, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“We will see usually, eulogies come out, and then someone will emerge as the successor,” the official said. “They’ll have religious credentials; they will have leadership credentials. It will be someone from the kind of inner circle, in all likelihood.”
Commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces Mazloum Abdi said intelligence from his group was utilized by the U.S. military to search out and kill Muhajir in a village near Jarablus, a town in northwestern Syria reports The Independent.
With the loss of its self-declared caliphate, its leader, and now his expected successor, the group will be reeling, and is expected to come up with a new leader. Control of its strongholds has been lost, and the group will be looking elsewhere to find support.
One likely successor now could be the Iraqi Hajji Abdullah, who was added to the U.S. Treasury’s Rewards for Justice list in August. He is one of ISIS’s most senior ideologues, one who helped drive and justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq. He is also believed to oversee some of the group’s global terrorist operations. A reward of $5 million has been offered for information leading to his capture.
“When Baghdadi became leader, nobody really knew who he was,” said Aaron Y. Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It’s quite possible somebody could rise that we don’t really know about.” He said rumors that Hajji Abdullah traced his lineage from the Quraysh tribe, from which Baghdadi also claimed descent, could help him qualify as caliph, reports The Wall Street Journal.
It is difficult to predict who will become the next leader of the terrorist organization, as they operate in a very secretive way. Iyad al-Obaidi, ISIS’s defense minister and a veteran of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, is another name that has been thrown around to become their next leader.