Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday that Turkish forces had killed the leader of the Islamic State group, code-named Abu Hussein al-Qurayshi, during a strike in Syria. Erdogan stated that Turkey’s intelligence agency, MIT, had been tracking the militant leader “for a long time.”

The Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces’ military police reported that the MIT had engaged in a clash with IS militants on a farm in the village of Miska in Aleppo province late on Friday. As the fighting escalated, Al-Qurayshi, who was hiding in a building on the farm, blew himself up. The authorities are searching the hideout for evidence and other information.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, stated that Turkish drones flew over the area, while Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups closed off roads leading to the region where the clashes occurred, following Ankara’s alert.

The Islamic State group, which broke away from al-Qaida about a decade ago, once controlled vast swathes of northern and eastern Syria, as well as northern and western Iraq. In 2014, the extremist group proclaimed its so-called caliphate, attracting supporters from around the world. However, the militants have lost control of the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria, and their ranks have been significantly depleted.

Abu Hussein al-Qurayshi was named the leader of the Islamic State group after its previous chief was killed in October, with an IS spokesman calling him “one of the veteran warriors and one of the loyal sons of the Islamic State.” He took over leadership of IS at a time when the extremist group had lost control of most of the territory it once held. Nevertheless, Al-Qurayshi had been attempting to revive the group, with sleeper cells carrying out deadly attacks in both Iraq and Syria.

The Turkish operation marks the fourth time in less than four years that an IS leader has been killed. Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hunted down by U.S. forces in a raid in northwest Syria in October 2019. His successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, was killed in a similar raid in February 2022. He was followed by Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who, according to the U.S. military, was killed in mid-October in an operation by Syrian rebels in Syria’s southern province of Daraa. None of the al-Qurayshis are related to one another, and “al-Qurayshi” is not their actual surname; rather, it comes from Quraish, the name of the tribe to which Islam’s Prophet Muhammad belonged. The IS group claims that its leaders hail from this tribe and “al-Qurayshi” serves as part of an IS leader’s nom de guerre.

Turkey has carried out a number of operations against IS and Kurdish groups along the Syrian border, capturing or killing suspected militants. The country has gained control of large swaths of territory in northern Syria following a series of incursions aimed at pushing Kurdish groups away from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s stance in the fight against terrorist organizations, emphasizing that the country would continue its struggle without discrimination. The operation is a significant accomplishment for Turkey, which has faced severe criticism over its human rights record and its crackdown on opposition movements.