The Islamic State jihadist group said Wednesday that its leader Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi has been killed in battle and announced a replacement to head up its remaining sleeper cells.
A spokesman for IS group said Hashimi, an Iraqi, was killed "in combat with enemies of God", without elaborating on the date or circumstances of his death.
The US military's Central Command (CENTCOM) said Hashimi had been killed in an operation carried out by rebels of the Free Syrian Army in Daraa province in southern Syria in mid-October. It hailed his death as "another blow" to the jihadists.
Using an alternative acronym for the IS group, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: "We welcome the announcement that another leader from ISIS is no longer walking in the face of the Earth."
Speaking in an audio message, the IS group's spokesman said Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi had been named the group's new leader.
Qurashi refers to a tribe of the Prophet Mohammed, from whom IS group leaders must claim descent.
After a meteoric rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014 that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, the IS group saw its self-proclaimed "caliphate" collapse under a wave of offensives.
The Sunni Muslim extremist group's terror-ridden rule was marked by beheadings and shootings.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells still carry out attacks in both countries.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)