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US confirms Islamic State group's 'No. 2' killed in northern Syria

Islamic State spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir was killed in the town of Jarablus on Sunday, US official says
Syrians inspect the site where Islamic State spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was killed in Syria, 28 October (AFP)

The Islamic State (IS) group's spokesman was killed in a US-led raid in northern Syria on the weekend, a US official has confirmed, only a day after IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a separate raid on his compound.

The killing of Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir on Sunday was first made public by leaders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which took part in the operation.

His death was confirmed on Monday by a US official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Muhajir was killed in the town of Jarablus in Syria's Aleppo province, the official said, as reported by Reuters.

A day earlier, Baghdadi was killed in a US special forces raid on his compound in northwestern Idlib province.

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The operation that led to Muhajir's death was also carried out by US forces, the American official said.

The official described the IS spokesman as Baghdadi's "No. 2, or one of his No. 2s".

Muhajir was appointed IS spokesman in 2016 after his predecessor, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, was killed in a US airstrike in Aleppo. 

Unlike Baghdadi and Adnani, who were known to be Iraqi and Syrian nationals, respectively, Muhajir's identity was publicly unknown, though his nickname - meaning "emigrant" - suggested he may have been a foreigner, Newsweek reported.

On Sunday, SDF commander Mazloum Abdi said on Twitter that al-Muhajjir "was targeted in the village of Ain al-Baydah near Jarablus, in a coordinated operation between SDF intelligence and the US army".

Abdi also described the IS spokesman as "the right hand of Baghdadi".

Baghdadi's body 'disposed of'

Baghdadi's killing drew international headlines and raised new questions about who would step in to lead the militant group he founded, which prevously controlled vast swathes of land across Iraq and Syria, and left death and devastation in its wake.

On Sunday, Donald Trump held a news conference at the White House to confirm rumours about his death. 

The US president said Baghdadi killed himself and three children by detonating an explosive belt after he was chased into a tunnel by dogs in a US special forces raid in the Syrian village of Barisha near the Turkish border.

'The disposal of his [Baghdadi's] remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately'

- General Mark Milley, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman

"Last night the United States brought the world's worst terrorist to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead," Trump said.

On Monday, both Reuters and AFP news agencies reported, citing anonymous US officials, that Baghdadi's body was buried at sea by the US military after he was killed.

Earlier in the day General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the burial took place according to US military procedures and "in accordance with the law of armed conflict".

"The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately," Milley told reporters at a briefing.

Milley also said the US was "not prepared at this time" to release photos and video of the raid that led to Baghdadi's death.

"They're going through a declassification process," he said, though he added that some imagery of the operation could be publicly released once it is declassified.