Reports from Syria say the Islamic State group’s second-ranking leader, who served as the extremist group’s chief propagandist and also was linked to recruiting activities and attacks in Europe, has been killed in Aleppo province.
Islamic State announced Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’s death Tuesday, saying only that he was killed «while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo.»
A U.S. senior defense official said coalition forces earlier Tuesday conducted an airstrike in al Bab, Syria, «targeting an ISIL [Islamic State] leader.» He would not say whether the strike targeted or killed Adnani. He said U.S. officials are «still assessing the results of the operation.»
The U.S. State Department offered a $5 million reward last year for information leading to Adnani’s capture.
A government official in Washington told VOA that the U.S. been tracking several «high value» IS members in Aleppo province, but would not confirm whether Adnani was one of those on the list.
Adnani was reported to have been seriously injured eight months ago in Iraq, during fighting near the city of Haditha. He was born in Syria about 39 years ago and was a prominent member of the al-Qaida terror network before aligning himself with Islamic State, where he was considered second in rank to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Adnani headed a special unit within Islamic State known as the Emni which organized and carried out attacks beyond the territory Islamic State held in Iraq and Syria.
«He oversaw the group’s external operations division, responsible for recruiting operatives around the world and instigating or organizing them to carry out attacks that have included Paris, Brussels and Dhaka, Bangladesh,» the newspaper reported.
Adnani narrated an infamous statement from Islamic State nearly two years ago, calling on Muslims living in the West to strike out wherever and however they could.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” Adnani said in the recording.
The United Nations, which had Adnani on its list of suspected terrorists subject to financial sanctions, has described him as the leader of Islamic State in Syria and chief of its external operations.