Appointment of new ISIS leader: fighters declare allegiance; Al-Qaeda question identity of new Caliph

    On March 10, 2022, the media arm of the Islamic State (ISIS) released an audio statement confirming[1] the death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Qurayshi along with ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir and announced the appointment of Abu Al-Hassan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi as the new caliph. Shortly after the release of the statement, delivered by new spokesman Abu Omar Al-Muhajir and disseminated widely on social media, ISIS fighters and supporters published statement and photos declaring their allegiance to the new leader and encouraging others to do the same.

    Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda supporters questioned the identity of the newly-appointed leader and argued that his lineage is unknown. A Telegram channel which supports Iran-backed Shi'ite militias warned Iraqi security forces of new waves of attacks to avenge the killing of the ISIS caliph and his spokesman.

    Shortly after the appointment of the new caliph was announced, a user in the ISIS-operated Rocket.Chat server declared his allegiance to the new caliph and wrote in English: "We pledge allegiance to the Commander of the Faithful and the Caliph of the Muslims, the Mujahid Sheikh Abu Al-Hassan Al-Hashemi Al-Qurashi (may Allah Almighty preserve him) to hear and obey, in activism and compulsion, in hardship and ease, and with preference upon us, and that we won't dispute the leaders upon the leadership, unless we see clear blasphemy in which we have evidence from Allah; and Allah is a witness to what we say." The user then urged other supporters to pledge their allegiance, saying: "All supporters must hasten to declare the pledge of allegiance, to seek pleasure of Allah Almighty, and publish it in their channels and accounts, so that none of you should sleep without a pledge of allegiance to the Caliph — may Allah protect him."[2]

    Two other users of the server "posted written statements declaring their allegiance to the new caliph in Arabic, English, and Urdu.

    Responding to the call from ISIS's new spokesman for fighters to pledge their allegiance to the new caliph, fighters in Kirkuk, Iraq and west Africa released pictorial reports documenting members pledging their allegiance, a tradition practiced by ISIS fighters after the announcement of a new caliph. Similar statements will likely be released from fighters across the world in the coming days.

    Meanwhile, several pro-ISIS media groups have also declared their allegiance to the new leader. One pro-ISIS outlet published an English poster titled "Announcing the Bay'ah" (oath of allegiance) to the newly-appointed ISIS Caliph, stating: "In enraging the kuffar [unbelievers] and terrorizing them, we announce our bay'ah [allegiance] to Amirul-Muminin, [the leader of the faithful] the Khalifah of the Muslims, the Mujahid Shaykh Abul-Hasan Al-Qurayshi (may Allah preserve him), to listen and obey, in times of delight and dislike, and in times of hardship and ease, and to do so selflessly; and not to dispute the command of those in authority unless we see blatant kufr [unbelief], concerning which we have proof from Allah. Allah bears witness over what we say."[3]

    ISIS supporters have also downplayed the impact of the killing of the group's leaders, stressing that Islam will endure and that the group will not be defeated. A pro-ISIS Rocket.Chat user commented on the confirmation of the death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Qurayshi, writing: "Hamzah, 'Umar, 'Uthman and 'Ali [the four companions of the Prophet, the last three of whom were also Caliphs] were killed, but Islam will remain until Judgment Day, and will not die with the death of its leaders. And we say to the Crusader alliance, in particular, and to the enemies of our religion in general: Do you think victory comes by killing one or more leaders? You have failed and you were wrong, servants of the tyrant. The victory of Allah is close, and we will not abandon our path even if our leaders are killed. We will continue our journey until we meet Allah. We ask Him for steadfastness. We belong to Him and to Him we shall return."[4]

    Reaction Of Al-Qaeda Supporter
    A user in the Al-Qaeda-operated Rocket.Chat server questioned the identity of the newly-appointed leader, saying that his lineage is unknown, like the previous caliph. He wrote: "They inaugurated Abu Al-Hassan Al-Hashimi as we predicted, and the group once again refuses to reveal his name, lineage, and education background, or jis physical and religious qualifications." The user also questioned the confirmation of the death of ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir and described it as "a desperate attempt to fool people." The user also argued that only the caliph was killed in the February 3 U.S. operation in Syria, claiming that had the spokesman been killed during the operation, U.S. President Joe Biden would have mentioned it in his official statement. If the spokesman was not killed during the operation, claimed the user, "he is alive and ISIS is lying[;] he was assassinated by ISIS or perhaps was killed a long time ago and ISIS's media wing did not confirm it."[5]

    Reaction Of Pro-Shi'ite Militia Telegram Channel
    On March 10, 2022, a Telegram channel which support the Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq, published a warning addressing Iraqi security forces, urging them to be vigilant during this week, saying: "the terrorist gangs of ISIS called on its fighters to avenge the death of their leader and the gang's spokesman."[6]

    [1] See MEMRI JTTM Report In Statement By New Islamic State (ISIS) Spokesman Abu Omar Al-Muhajir, Group Confirms Killing Of Leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Qurayshi And Spokesman Abu Hamza Al-Qurayshi, Announces Abu Al-Hassan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi As New Leader, March 10, 2022

    [2] Chat.techhaven March 10, 2022

    [3] Telegram, March 11, 2022

    [4] Chat.techhaven, March 11, 2022

    [5] Talk.gnews, March 10, 2022

    [6] Telegram, March 10, 2022

    SOURCE: MEMRI Jihad & Terrorism Threat Monitor

    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

    Read more posts by this author.