Report: Newly Appointed IS Leader Detained in Istanbul Raid

(Reuters) – Turkish intelligence and counterterrorism forces have arrested the man believed to be the new leader of the Islamic State group in a raid in Istanbul, according to Turkish media reports.

Turkey’s OdaTV quoted Turkish officials as saying intelligence and counterterrorism forces in the country arrested Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, who is believed to have recently been appointed to replace Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi after the latter blew himself up during a U.S. raid on his home in Syria in February.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to confirm the thus far unverified report of al-Qurashi’s arrest in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) said on Thursday that the country’s current and future military operations on its southern borders do not target its neighbors’ sovereignty but are necessary for Turkish security.

The MGK statement followed President Tayyip Erdogan’s declaration on Monday that Ankara would soon launch new military operations on its southern borders to expand 30-km (20-mile) deep safe zones and combat what he described as terrorist threats there.

“Operations being carried out now and in the future to remove the terrorism threat on our southern borders do not target our neighbors’ territorial integrity and sovereignty in any way,” it said after a three-hour meeting chaired by Erdogan.

Any operations were expected to target northern Syria, where Turkey has launched several incursions since 2016, mainly targeting the US-backed Kurdish People’s Defense Units, also known as the YPG.

Ankara views the YPG as identical to the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that has been waging an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984. It designates both groups as terrorist organizations. The YPG is a key element of the Kurdish-led coalition that the United States largely relied on to fight the Islamic State.

So far, there have been few signs of military movements that preceded Turkey’s last four incursions into northern Syria.

Erdogan’s talk of a military operation has also raised the stakes in Turkey’s row with its NATO partners over Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, with Ankara accusing both of harboring people linked to the PKK.

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