President Donald Trump revealed during a Tuesday meeting of the Economic Club of New York that the U.S. knows where the successor to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is hiding.
Trump suggested there is still an active effort to dismantle the ISIS terror group’s leadership in the weeks following the death of Baghdadi, who killed himself with a suicide bomb when U.S. Army Delta Force members raided his compound. According to the Associated Press, Trump touted the takedown of the terror group’s second in command and said the U.S. knew where to find the third leader in command.
“We have our eye on [Baghdadi’s] third. His third has got a lot of problems because we know where he is, too,” Trump said in his Tuesday speech.
Trump’s comments were the second in as many days to allude to U.S. monitoring of the ISIS third in command. Trump alluded to the effort to take down ISIS during a speech on Monday, opening the 100th anniversary New York City’s Veterans Day Parade.
“Baghdadi is dead. His second in charge is dead. We have our eyes on number 3,” Trump said.
Within hours of the raid that brought down Baghdadi, a U.S. airstrike also killed Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, the top ISIS spokesman and the likely direct successor to lead ISIS.
Trump’s reference to the ISIS third in command may have been referring to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, an ISIS leader described in a recent audio recording by the terror group. The recording, transmitted through the Telegram messaging application and intercepted by Site Intelligence Group, named Qurayshi as an “emir of the believers” and “caliph.”
The new ISIS leader may also be a man by the name of Hajji Abdullah. In an interview on Al-Arabiya TV following Baghdadi’s death, Baghdadi’s brother-in-law Mohamad Ali Sajit disputed claims Qurayshi would be the new leader and instead suggested Abdullah would control the terror group.
In his initial announcement of the Delta Force raid and Baghdadi’s death, Trump said U.S. military officials would continue to determine the remaining ISIS leadership.
Those U.S. special operations and intelligence members present for the Baghdadi raid reportedly captured two ISIS members and other valuable intelligence documents detailing the structure of the terror group. At the time, intelligence officials suggested the captured information likely would not result in immediate follow-up strikes on ISIS.
The Trump White House previously announced the defeat of the ISIS territorial “Caliphate” with the fall of their stronghold in the Baghouz region of Syria in March. Despite the territorial defeat, pockets of ISIS resistance have persisted and Trump’s decision in October to withdraw the majority of U.S. troops from Syria has led to some concern of an ISIS resurgence.