Islamic State reports big hit
Group reports spokesman’s death amid battle losses
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.”