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Would-be Malaysian ISIS chief killed in air strike in Syria

Fudhail died last month in an air strike in Raqqa

KUALA LUMPUR: The man singled out by terror group ISIS to be their next Malaysia chief has been killed in an air strike in Syria, New Straits Times reported, quoting intelligence sources.

Muhammad Fudhail Omar, 25, is said to have died last month in besieged Raqqa, which served as the militant group's de facto capital.

Known as Abu Qutaibah among his comrades, Fudhail was poised to step into the shoes left by Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, the former No. 1 for Malaysians fighting with ISIS in Syria.

He was killed in a drone attack in April.

Fudhail went to Syria on May 2, 2014, after being persuaded by former PAS Kedah member Ustaz Mohd Lotfi Ariffin, who was among the first Malaysians to go to Syria a few months earlier.

Lotfi and his comrades had used Facebook to lure Malaysians to the battlefield and spread Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ideology.

"He (Fudhail) made his way to Syria in 2014 to join the Ajnad al-Sham group. Lotfi was the then head of the group's Malaysian outfit in Syria," sources told New Straits Times.

"After Lotfi was killed, he (Fudhail) was appointed as the leader among Malaysians in the group because he could speak Arabic."

In a separate development, The Trump administration has decided to halt the CIA's covert programme to equip and train certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two US officials said, a move sought by Assad ally Russia.

The US decision, said one of the officials, is part of an effort by the administration to improve relations with Russia, which along with Iranian-supported groups has largely succeeded in preserving Mr Assad's government in the six-year-civil war, reported Reuters.

The CIA programme began in 2013 as part of efforts by then-President Barack Obama to overthrow Mr Assad, but produced little success, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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