Syria’s army has taken credit for killing the head of the ISIS extremist group in an operation in the country’s south in October, state media reported on Friday.
Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi was killed in an operation carried out in Daraa, the southern province where Syria’s uprising first kicked off in 2011, according to those involved in the fighting as well as the US military.
It was both the first time the US-led coalition was not involved in killing the top ISIS leader and the first time an ISIS leader was killed in Syria’s south rather than the north, where a range of factions, some of them US-backed, hold sway.
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Deraa returned to Syrian army control in 2018 following Russian-brokered reconciliation deals that saw the opposition hand over heavy weapons and be incorporated into pro-government units.
In October, some of those fighters surrounded the house Quraishi was using as a hideout in the town of Jasem, according to former fighters involved in the clash, relatives of others who died in the fighting, and residents.
But on Friday, a security source in Daraa province told the state news agency SANA that the operation directly involved Syrian army troops as well as “local and civil groups” and resulted in his killing on October 15.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance that has fought ISIS in Syria’s north and east, said on Thursday it was not involved in the operation. The Pentagon also said it was not involved.