update: Moments ago the ISIS media channel Al-Furqan Foundation released its awaited "big announcement" which it first teased 24 hours ago.
The terror group has confirmed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death and declared a new leader, named as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. Al Jazeera reports of the new statement:
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group has confirmed the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announcing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi as its new chief.
Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, ISIL's new spokesman, made the announcement on Thursday in an audio statement distributed by the group's media arm, Al Furqan.
New ISIS leader is declared as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi https://t.co/UCLAmZOzgv— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) October 31, 2019
The audio message was reported as being brief and urges followers to "fulfill the call of Baghdadi".
It further threatens attacks on the US and Europe, saying, "America, don't you realize that the Islamic State is now at the forefront of Europe and West Africa? It is extended from the East to the West."
Very little is as yet known about newly declared ISIS chief Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, and his name was never before widely reported, but remains to the outside world a relative unknown.
As expected, new #ISIS leader is (allegedly) from the tribe of Quraysh, which the Prophet Muhammad came from. Still, the speech provides very little information about him.— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) October 31, 2019
* * *
As US officials say they are bracing for some of kind of ISIS revenge attacks after the successful American special forces raid which killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and as speculation abounds over just who will be named as successor to head the terror group, a prominent ISIS media channel is promoting that a "big announcement" is imminent.
Islamic State's Al-Furqan Foundation, which has according to terrorism analysts released statements over the years only related to major developments, on midday Wednesday issued an Arabic statement which reads, "Coming Soon ... By the Willingness of Allah the Almighty," but did not reveal any further details.
According to VOA News, the message has been shared widely on jihadist social media platforms, and is considered authentic:
The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist communications, said supporters quickly began distributing the poster on social media platforms, with some expressing hope that Baghdadi was still alive while others were preparing to celebrate his martyrdom.
A number of Middle East analysts said they believed the announcement relates to naming a successor to the 'caliphate' and that a statement on the terror group's future is likely to be included.
ISIS spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was also identified as having been killed in a follow-up operation near Syria's border with Turkey. Muhajir was believed one of a likely list of candidates to replace Baghdadi.
U.S. Central Command's General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversaw the Saturday operation to kill Baghdadi, told reporters this week that he's under no illusion that this marks the final demise of the terror group. "ISIS is first and last an ideology, so we're under no illusions that it's going to go away because we killed Baghdadi," the top general said. "It will remain."
Crucially McKenzie echoed the Pentagon belief that a revenge attack is coming, though without saying they had any concrete intelligence over anything in the making.
"We suspect they will try some form of retribution attack, and we are postured and prepared for that," he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.