His death comes as IS militants, after years of low-level hit-and-run ambushes, had begun to carry out bolder, higher profile attacks. Last month, its fighters attacked a prison in northeast Syria to free their jailed comrades, leading to a 10 day battle with Kurdish-led forces that left some 500 dead.

The leader of the Islamic State group killed in a U.S. raid overnight in northwest Syria was largely a mystery, with almost no known photos, never appearing in public or in the group’s videos, AP reports.

He met his end in the same rebel-held Idlib province where his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was hunted down by the Americans more than two years ago, some distance from the main theaters in eastern Syria and Iraq where the group once held vast swaths of territory in a self-declared “caliphate.”

A veteran militant since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, he took the name Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi when he took over command of IS after al-Baghdadi was killed in the October 2019 raid. It was up to him to lead the group’s remnants as they regrouped following the downfall of their caliphate and shifted underground to wage an insurgency in Iraq and Syria.

His death comes as IS militants, after years of low-level hit-and-run ambushes, had begun to carry out bolder, higher profile attacks. Last month, its fighters attacked a prison in northeast Syria to free their jailed comrades, leading to a 10 day battle with Kurdish-led forces that left some 500 dead.

It is unclear whether his killing now will break the group’s momentum.

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