One of two former Iraqi Army officers under Saddam Hussein will likely replace Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi if his death is confirmed, according to experts.
Experts on the insurgent group believe one of Baghdadi’s top two lieutenants will succeed him as leader of IS, both former army officials working for the late Iraqi dictator.
IS war minister Lyad al-Obaidi and Amniya security agency head Ayad al-Jumaili are the “leading contenders” for Baghdadi’s role if he is dead.
Last week, Russia’s defense ministry claimed the IS leader might have been killed after an air strike targeted one of the extremist group’s posts in Syria.
On Friday, Interfax news agency noted a Russian politician had said the chances Baghdadi was killed “was close to 100 percent.”
“We don’t have any concrete evidence on whether or not he’s dead either,” US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon told a Pentagon briefing.
Hisham al-Hashimi, who counsels several Middle East governments on IS, said it was unclear which one of the two would replace Baghdadi.
“Jumaili recognizes Obaidi as his senior but there is no clear successor and, depending on conditions, it can be either of the two,” he explained.
According to Reuters, the selection of a new leader needs the consent of IS’ eight-member advisory body.
Since its emergence in 2014, the insurgent group has lost control of large swaths of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.
Iraqi forces are nearing the end of an operation to remove the militants from Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.
Likewise, US-backed Kurdish forces are defeating the insurgents in neighboring Syria’s Raqqa Province.
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