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ISIS leader killed in Syria, Turkish President Erdoğan says

Abu Hussein al-Qurashi was "neutralized" in an operation by Turkish intelligence services, Erdoğan announces in a broadcast interview.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Thursday. 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Thursday. AP

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday that Turkish intelligence forces had killed Islamic State militant group leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi in Syria.

“This individual was neutralized as part of an operation by the Turkish national intelligence organization in Syria yesterday,” Erdoğan said in an interview with TRT Turk broadcaster.

Erdoğan said the intelligence organization had pursued Qurashi for a long time.

Syrian local and security sources said the raid took place in the northern Syrian town of Jandaris, which is controlled by Turkey-backed rebel groups and was one of the worst-affected in the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit both Turkey and Syria.

The Syrian National Army, an opposition faction with a security presence in the area, did not immediately comment.

One resident said clashes started on the edge of Jandaris overnight from Saturday into Sunday, lasting for about an hour before residents heard a large explosion.

The area was later encircled by security forces to prevent anyone from approaching the area.

ISIS selected al-Qurashi as its leader in November after the previous leader was killed in an operation in southern Syria.

The militant group took over vast swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and its head at the time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an Islamic caliphate across territory that housed millions.

But ISIS lost its grip on the territory after campaigns by U.S.-backed forces in Syria and Iraq, as well as Syrian forces backed by Iran, Russia and various paramilitaries.

Its remaining thousands of militants have in recent years mostly hid out in remote hinterlands of both countries, though they are still capable of carrying out major hit-and-run attacks.

The U.S.-led coalition alongside a Kurdish-led alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces is still carrying out raids against ISIS members in Syria.

In some cases, senior ISIS figures have been targeted while hiding out in areas where Turkey has major influence.