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Libyan IS head al-Tunisi most likely to be new IS leader after al-Baghdadi's death: report

Jalaluddin al-Tunisi, head of the Islamic State (IS) faction in Libya, is most likely to become the new IS leader after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a report said Saturday.

Al-Tunisi is one of the most important candidates to succeed al-Baghdadi, as the terror group seeks to survive and even expand in North Africa after its losses in Iraq and Syria, the Saudi TV station Al Arabiya reported.

The IS has confirmed the death of al-Baghdadi, who was reportedly killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria, the Iraqi news agency al-Sumaria News reported Tuesday.

The IS circulated a brief statement through its media in the town of Tal Afar in the west of Mosul, confirming the killing of al-Baghdadi while claiming that the name of a new leader would be announced soon.

The news report came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally declared Mosul liberated from IS after nearly nine months of fierce fighting.

IS desperately needs a new leader in order to seek survival and ensure its continued existence after its recent losses in Iraq and Syria.

A few IS leaders are left now, and al-Tunisi is one of the most important names qualified to succeed Baghdadi, Al Arabiya reported.

Al-Tunisi, whose real name is Mohamed Ben Salem al-Ayouni, was born in 1982 in the Masaken region of the coastal province of Sousse in Tunisia.

Al-Tunisi immigrated to France since the 1990s and obtained French citizenship before returning to Tunisia upon the revolution.

In 2011, he moved to Syria to participate in the civil war there. He announced in 2014 to join IS after the killing of the commander of the "Ghoraba battalion."

Al-Tunisi has been very close to al-Baghdadi, who named him last year as the IS leader in Libya, believing that he was able to win battles and maintain good relations with other extremist groups in North Africa, Al Arabia reported.

North Africa is at the top of the regions where IS is seeking to survive and expand in the future. Libya, especially its insecure south, provides a safe haven for terrorists as they can operate freely there and secure the financing through smuggling goods.

[Source: Xinhua, Riyadh, 15Jul17]

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