Is­lamic State re­ports big hit

Group re­ports spokesman’s death amid bat­tle losses

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Missy Ryan and Greg Miller — As­so­ci­ated Press

The Is­lamic State re­ported the death of its chief spokesman, Abu Muhammed al-Ad­nani, on Tues­day, potentially sig­nal­ing the loss of a se­nior mil­i­tant who has steered the group’s cam­paign to bring vi­o­lent op­er­a­tions to the West.

If con­firmed, Ad­nani’s death would dam­age Is­lamic State in two ar­eas that have made the ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous: its so­phis­ti­cated use of so­cial me­dia to reach a global au­di­ence, and its will­ing­ness to em­ploy the crud­est forms of vi­o­lence in scat­tered plots out­side Iraq and Syria.

It would be a sig­nif­i­cant blow at a time when the group is al­ready fend­ing off at­tacks from Western­backed forces on the ground and a two-year air cam­paign that has de­prived it of ter­ri­tory and re­sources.

In a tweet, Amaq News Agency, the Is­lamic State’s me­dia arm, said Ad­nani had been killed while in­spect­ing troops in Aleppo. It did not say when, where or how Ad­nani died.

In a longer state­ment posted on the Tele­gram mes­sag­ing app, Amaq boasted of the group’s re­silience de­spite Ad­nani’s death.

U.S. of­fi­cials could not im­me­di­ately con­firm the re­port of Ad­nani’s death, but a se­nior de­fense of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of Syr­ian fam­i­lies, flee­ing Is­lamic State and on­go­ing fight­ing, take refuge Mon­day in the vil­lage of al-Khal­fatli. Abu Muhammed al-Ad­nani helped steer vi­o­lent op­er­a­tions against the West. anonymity to com­ment on an evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion, said that air­craft be­long­ing to the U.S.-led coali­tion had tar­geted a “se­nior leader” from Is­lamic State in al-Bab, a city in north­ern Aleppo prov­ince, on Tues­day. It was not clear whether that leader was Ad­nani.

While U.S. war planes con­tinue their long air war over Syria, re­cent strikes have been fo­cused in ar­eas in east­ern and far north­ern Syria, where al­lied Syr­ian forces are bat­tling the mil­i­tants and where U.S. air­craft are less likely to over­lap with Rus­sian and Syr­ian war­planes, which are also con­duct­ing strikes across Syria. In re­cent weeks, Rus­sian and Syr­ian planes have in­ten­si­fied their ac­tiv­i­ties over Aleppo, gripped by in­tense fight­ing as govern­ment-backed forces and rebels bat­tle for con­trol of the city.

A Syr­ian na­tional, Ad­nani was among a core group of Is­lamic State op­er­a­tives who could claim di­rect ties to Abu Musab al-Zar­qawi, the Jor­da­nian ex­trem­ist who launched the or­ga­ni­za­tion then known as al-Qaida in Iraq af­ter the U.S. in­va­sion of 2003. “He was their most pro­lific and pub­lic spokesman,” said Will McCants, a for­mer State De­part­ment of­fi­cial and ex­pert on Is­lamic State. “The war of words be­tween alQaida and ISIS, the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for war on the west — that was all Ad­nani’s do­ing.”

Like Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, the leader of Is­lamic State, Ad­nani is be­lieved to have been held in U.S. mil­i­tary cus­tody in Iraq roughly a decade ago, only to be re­leased and help the or­ga­ni­za­tion sur­vive near-ex­tinc­tion to re-emerge later as Is­lamic State.

Be­cause of his Syr­ian na­tion­al­ity, al-Qaida re­lied on Ad­nani to help the or­ga­ni­za­tion es­tab­lish a foothold in Syria as the coun­try fell into civil war. But Ad­nani later helped or­ches­trate the Iraq-base af­fil­i­ate’s split from al-Qaida, a rup­ture that led to the for­ma­tion of Is­lamic State and its rapid emer­gence as a ter­ror group with more fol­low­ers and vi­o­lent ca­pac­ity than its par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion had amassed in years.

In state­ments an­nounc­ing Ad­nani’s death, Is­lamic State de­scribed him as a

Turk­ish, Kur­dish clashes sub­side

Clashes be­tween Tur­key’s mil­i­tary and Kur­dish­backed Syr­ian forces sub­sided Tues­day evening af­ter days of fight­ing be­tween the two had frus­trated ef­forts by a U.S.-led coali­tion to drive Is­lamic State from north­ern Syria.

West­ern of­fi­cials had ex­pressed alarm that the fight­ing be­tween the two sides, both backed by the U.S. in Syria’s 5-year-old civil war, has di­verted their at­ten­tion from the fight against the ex­trem­ist group.

The Kur­dish-backed Jarablus Mil­i­tary Coun­cil said in a state­ment it had agreed to a cease-fire with the Turk­ish mil­i­tary in a dis­puted area in north cen­tral Syria af­ter lengthy con­sul­ta­tions with the coali­tion. de­scen­dant of the tribe and fam­ily of the Prophet Mo­hammed, a clue that Ad­nani was pos­si­bly be­ing groomed as a re­place­ment for Bagh­dadi if the Is­lamic State leader were to be killed, McCants said.

In a steady stream of au­dio mes­sages, Ad­nani set and ar­tic­u­lated the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s vi­o­lent agenda, re­peat­edly em­pha­siz­ing the pri­or­ity of tar­get­ing the West. Ear­lier this year, dur­ing the Is­lamic holy month of Ra­madan, a record­ing at­trib­uted to Ad­nani called for a “month of con­quest and ji­had. Get pre­pared, be ready ... to make it a month of calamity ev­ery­where for the non-be­liev­ers.”

NAZEER AL-KHATIB/GETTY-AFP

YOUTUBE 2013

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