The Iraqi Defense Ministry said Wednesday that an airstrike has neutralized the second-in-command of the Islamic State terror group, but the U.S. military has denied that coalition forces are responsible for carrying out an attack aimed at eliminating the jihadist.
Abu Alaa al-Afri, the Islamic State’s second-in-charge behind Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi– who is also rumored to be in critical condition following an alleged U.S. strike– was killed in an attack on an ISIS-held gathering at a mosque, the Iraqi Defense Ministry stated, according to Reuters.
“Based on accurate intelligence, an air strike by the coalition forces targeted the second in command of IS, Abu Alaa al-Badri,” said the Iraqi Defense Ministry statement.
Also killed in the strike was a high-ranking ISIS security official, Akram Qirbash, who was known as the “Judge of Judges,” according to the Defense Ministry.
The Iraqi government site posted footage of the purported air strike on the “Martyrs Mosque” near Tel Afar in northern Iraq, where the terrorist was a preacher, Reuters reports.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) took issue with the report, denying that any U.S. jets or its coalition partners struck the mosque in question. Aircraft “did not strike a mosque as some of the press reporting has alleged,” said a CENTCOM statement.
“We have significant mitigation measures in place within the targeting process during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties,” added the statement.
ISIS’s number-two man, who Iraqi authorities believe to be dead, is an ethnic Turkmen who grew up in Tel Afar, Iraq, according to reports. Some have suggested that he has been promoted to “Caliph” of the Islamic State following an airstrike that may have rendered Baghdadi unable to lead.
The U.S. recently placed a $7 million dollar bounty on Afri, who also goes by the name Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, among several other aliases. He was previously a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq, serving under the infamous, now-dead Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.