Then the Russian Defense Ministry said it had killed Al-Adnani with an airstrike conducted by a Su-24 bomber that targeted a group of 40 militants.
Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the official spokesman for the Islamic State (IS) group who gained notoriety for his frequent calls for jihad, has been killed in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, the militant group’s media outlet announced on Tuesday.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said Adnani’s killing by the Russian air strike had been confirmed “through several intelligence channels”.
The spokesman for ISIS Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani has reportedly been killed in Aleppo yesterday whilst “inspecting military operations”.
“And, we are still assessing the results of that strike”, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said during a press conference from the Pentagon Wednesday.
Al-Adnani was the mastermind of the extremist group’s strategy of lashing out overseas with attacks that overshadowed its battlefield losses in Syria and Iraq.
The IS group said its spokesman and chief strategist, who laid out the blueprint for the group’s attacks against the West, was killed overseeing operations in northern Syria.
However, Russia has been assisting the Syrian government’s military in the region, where different stretches of land are controlled by a hodgepodge of forces including the regime of Bashar Assad, ISIS, Kurdish militias and US -backed rebels.
“Only al-Baghdadi is a more important leader, and al-Adnani was probably positioned to succeed al-Baghadi if he was killed”, Thomas Joscelyn, a researcher with the USA -based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said in an email to The Associated Press.
Adnani was widely considered to be the militant group’s second in command and the likely successor to current leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“We have no information to support Russia’s claims that they also carried out a strike against Adnani”, Cook said, noting that Russian Federation has spent most of its military campaign in Syria “supporting and propping up” the regime of Bashar al-Assad and not pursuing the ISIS leadership.
The US State Department allocated a reward of $ 5 million in May a year ago for anyone who provided information about Al-Adnani.
The US said he had “co-ordinated the movement of Isil [IS] fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited” new members.
Al-Adnani’s death has not yet been confirmed, but would be a major blow to the terrorist organization.
“It would be amusing if not for the character of the campaign the Russians have undertaken in Syria”.
But analysts believe that in this instance al-Adnani’s high profile and standing among the group meant the ISIS leadership had to be seen to be first to claim the death. He said the US was “still assessing the results of the strike”.
Adnani, from the western Syrian province of Idlib, joined the jihadist movement in Iraq where he served under the late local al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
It was Al Adnani who, in a June 2014 audio recording, declared ISIL’s establishment of a “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq, and Al Baghdadi as the “leader of Muslims everywhere”.