Jihadists (illustration)
Jihadists (illustration) iStock

A leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) group blew himself up in southern Syria after being surrounded by government forces, i24NEWS reported on Wednesday, citing Syrian state media.

Syria’s 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."

Al-Iraqi "triggered his explosive belt after being surrounded and wounded," the agency said.

A security source said al-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 al-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.

ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" in land it controlled.

Several military offensives, including those backed by the US-led international coalition, have since seen ISIS lose most areas it once controlled, including the loss of their de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.

In 2019, then-US President Donald Trump declared that “100 percent” of the ISIS caliphate had been liberated.

Despite losing the physical caliphate, thousands of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, and the group continues to carry out terrorist attacks.