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Daesh silent on Baghdadi death as it searches for successor

Daesh's flag ripped [File photo]
Daesh's flag ripped [File photo]

Daesh supporters have responded with silence and disbelief days after the death of their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, suggesting a breakdown in the command structure of the Sunni militant group trying to agree on a successor, reports Reuters.

There has been no official statement or mourning on Baghdadi on Daesh official Telegram channel since US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday his killing at the hands of special operations forces in northwestern Syria.

Its Amaq news agency Telegram has been continuing business as usual, posting since Sunday more than 30 claims of attacks in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq praising its fighters.

There has also been less chatter among jihadist supporters on social media compared to the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and other militant leaders.

READ: We stole Baghdadi’s underwear to complete DNA test to locate him

Analysts said the remains of Daesh leadership were in a state of shock probably trying to keep the group together and agree on a successor before confirming Baghdadi’s killing.

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi killed himself during a US military operation in Syria - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi killed himself during a US military operation in Syria – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

“There is probably right now chaos inside what is left of the leadership. Key aides have been killed and documents destroyed,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert on militant groups.

“They will want to agree on a successor before announcing the death,” he said, adding that a split of the group could delay this.

The group might also need to rebrand itself since using Baghdadi’s declared Islamic caliphate was no longer appropriate having lost the swathes of Iraq, Syria, and Libya its fighters used to control until 2017, analysts said.

Many of Baghdadi’s followers were also killed, Trump said on Sunday.

On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter the US military had likely killed the person who likely would have succeeded Baghdadi as Daesh leader. Trump did not specify who he was referring to, but a senior State Department official on Monday confirmed the killing of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, Daesh spokesman and a high-ranking Daesh figure, in an operation separate from the one that killed Baghdadi.

It took al Qaeda, another Sunni militant group following a similar ideology which carried out September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, several days before it confirmed the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid, said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher at Swansea University focussed on Daesh.

READ: Russia casts doubt on US operation to kill Baghdadi

About six weeks passed before the group announced a successor to bin Laden.

“Islamic State [Daesh] could announce the death in their weekly newsletter which could come out on Thursday if they were able to agree on a successor,” said Tamimi.

He said Hajj Abdullah, a deputy of Baghdadi, was his likely successor, provided he was still alive.

There had been conflicting reports before whether Baghdadi was still alive after the Daesh lost its last significant territory in Syria in March, resorting since then to hit-and-run guerrilla tactics.

His last audio message was in September.

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