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U.S. Confirms Death of Highest Ranking Islamic State Leader in Syria

The Pentagon has finally confirmed that a U.S. military airstrike launched late last month killed a high-ranking Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadi in northern Syria who was serving as the group’s chief propagandist and strategist for external operations against the West.

Top-ranking Lt. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who was killed late last month, was reportedly being groomed to replace ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On Aug. 30, the Amaq news agency, a media component of ISIS, released a statement announcing the Adnani’s death.

The following day, the Russian military also said Adnani had been killed by a Russia air strike

Meanwhile, the Pentagon, without elaborating further, would only confirm that the senior terrorist had been targeted by “a precision strike” in northern Syria, near the country’s border with Turkey.

The Department of Defense (DOD) did note at the time that the United States was “still assessing the results of the strike.”

Now, the Pentagon has confirmed that the ISIS leader was indeed executed two weeks ago by a U.S. airstrike.

Referring to Lt. Adnani, Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told Pentagon reporters:

Coalition forces had been…tracking him for a long time, knowing it was important to remove him from his role as ISIL’s senior plotter for external terror attacks.  Adnani was…responsible for spying, internal messaging, and discipline, as well as planning and directing the murder of innocent men, women and children in terror attacks around the world.

The Syrian jihadi has been identified as the highest-ranking ISIS member in Syria and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists.

Adnani has been described as a founder of both the Islamic State and its former ally, the Nusra Front, which recently cut its ties to al-Qaeda and renamed itself to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or JFS, (Front for the Conquest of the Levant).

Seth G. Jones, a terrorism specialist at the RAND Corporation, told the The New York Times (NYT):

In isolation, Adnani’s death represents the demise of an important strategic and operational leader of the Islamic State — though only one person. Adnani is likely replaceable, and the Islamic State will replace him as they have with other operatives that have been killed.

“When calling for lone wolf attacks in [the] West, ISIS fighters/supporters quote Adnani more than any other individual,” tweeted Rita Katz, a terrorism analyst and the director of the SITE Intelligence Group. SITE tracks jihadi activity online.

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