Paris: Just days after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid by US special forces in October, the Islamic State group announced the name of the man who has replaced him as leader.
But the true identity of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi remains shrouded in mystery, and with it the organisation's strategy going forward.
"We don't know much about him except that he is the leading judge of IS and he heads the Sharia (Islamic law) committee," said Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on the jihadist group. But there are even doubts that the man designated "caliph", or religious ruler, exists at all.
Some suggest the group was caught off guard and announced a name as a holding move, to create the impression it is on top of things.
"The organisation was taken by surprise by the brutality of Baghdadi's elimination," said Jean-Piere Filiu, an Arab world specialist at Paris' Sciences-Po university.
"It has since communicated the identity of a successor who we don't know if he truly exists or whether it is a decoy while the process of designating a true successor plays out in Syria and Iraq," he said.
Shortly after Baghdadi triggered a suicide belt during the American raid, US President Donald Trump announced to the world he had died "like a dog".
Trump claimed that he knew "exactly" who the successor was, but a senior American official soon after said the new leader was a "complete unknown".
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