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Islamic State leader ‘blows himself up’ in Syria
Abu Salem al-Iraqi was wounded and surrounded by government forces in the Daraa area, according to reports
A leader of the Islamic State group blew himself up in southern Syria after being surrounded by government forces, state media reported on Wednesday, citing a security source.
The official SANA news agency said security forces carried out a "special operation" in the Daraa area that led to the death of "the terrorist Abu Salem al-Iraqi".
Iraqi "triggered his explosive belt after being surrounded and wounded", the agency said.
The security source said Iraqi had been the military chief of the extremist group in the country's south.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, which has a vast network of sources on the ground, said Iraqi died on Tuesday.
It said he had been hiding out in the area since 2018, and had taken part in killings and attacks there.
Daraa province has mostly been under regime control since 2018, but rebel groups still control some areas under a truce deal agreed with Russia, an ally of Damascus.
After a meteoric rise in 2014 in Iraq and Syria that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, IS saw its self-proclaimed "caliphate" collapse under a wave of offensives.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells of the extremist Sunni Muslim group still carry out attacks in both countries.
Last month, Maher al-Agal, said to be one of the terror group’s ‘top five leaders’, was killed by a US drone strike in Syria.
Syria's war began in 2011 and has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country's pre-war population from their homes.
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