US looking at new ISIS leader and the role in organization

Islamic State wives start repatriation case in Netherlands

ARLINGTON: US Marine Corps Gen Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, speaks as a picture of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is seen during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. — AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States is researching the new leader of the Islamic State to determine his previous roles in the organization, Nathan Sales, the US counter-terrorism coordinator, said on Friday after a US raid last month killed its former leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. “Any time there is a leadership transition in the terrorist organization, we want to make sure that we have the latest information that we need to have to confront the threat,” Sales told a briefing.


Islamic State, in an audio tape posted online on Thursday, confirmed that Baghdadi was killed in a weekend raid by US special forces in northwestern Syria. It vowed revenge against the United States. The group, also known as ISIS, said a successor to Baghdadi identified as Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashemi Al-Quraishi had been appointed.


Earlier on Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted: “ISIS has a new leader. We know exactly who he is!” he said, without elaborating. Baghdadi had risen from obscurity to lead the ultra-hardline group and declare himself “caliph” of all Muslims, holding sway over huge areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014-2017 before Islamic State’s control was wrested away by US-led coalition forces including Iraqis and Syrian Kurds.


Trump has been softening his pullout plans for Syria after a backlash from Congress, including fellow Republicans, who say he enabled a long-threatened Turkish incursion on Oct 9 against Kurdish forces in Syria who had been America’s top allies in the battle against Islamic State since 2014. Sales said combating Islamic State remained a top national security priority for Washington.


“We will dismantle the group regardless of who its leadership cadre is,” he said. While world leaders hailed Baghdadi’s death, security analysts warned the threat of Islamic State and its ideology was far from over. An annual State Department report that his office put out on Friday concluded that despite losing almost all of its territory, Islamic State’s global presence continued to evolve in 2018, with new affiliates in Somalia and East Asia and through home-grown attacks.


“Additionally, battle-hardened terrorists headed home from the war zone in Syria and Iraq or traveled to third countries, posing new dangers,” Sales said in the report. Separately, Sales said the United States brought back and prosecuted 6 adult fighters or Islamic State supporters. It has also returned 14 children who are now being “rehabilitated and reintegrated,” he said.


Islamic State wives
In another development, lawyers for 23 women who joined Islamic State from the Netherlands asked a judge on Friday to order the Netherlands to repatriate them and their 56 young children from camps in Syria. The women and children were living in “deplorable conditions” in the Al-Hol camp in Northern Syria, lawyer Andre Seebregts said in court.


He added that their situation had significantly worsened due to the Turkish incursion into Syria and the possibility of Syrian forces taking control of the camps which were controlled by the Kurds until now. The Dutch government has stressed that it is too dangerous for Dutch officials to go into the camps and find the women to return them to the Netherlands. Lawyers for the state repeated that argument in court and added that the women did not have the right to Dutch consular assistance in the camps.


According to the Red Cross some 68,000 defeated fighters of Islamic State and their families are held in the al-Hol camp. They were held under the custody of Syrian Kurdish forces after they took the jihadist group’s last enclave. According to figures from the Dutch intelligence Agency as of Oct. 1 there are 55 Islamic State militants who travelled from the Netherlands and at least 90 children with Dutch parents, or parents who had lived for a considerable time in the Netherlands, in Northern Syria. The court will deliver a verdict on Nov 11. – Agencies