'Principal architect' of ISIL attacks on West killed in Syria
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
ISIL spokesman and head of external operations Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is pictured in this undated handout photo, courtesy the U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. REUTERS photoOne of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) top leaders, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, described by the US as the "principal architect" of the group's attacks on the West, has been killed in Syria, the jihadist organisation announced.
The United States said coalition forces had carried out an air strike targeting Adnani in Aleppo province on Aug. 30 and that it was still assessing the results of the raid, but that his death would be a major blow to the group.
One of ISIL's most recognised figures, Adnani had called for lone-wolf attacks on civilians using weapons including knives and even vehicles, as happened in Nice on July 14, when a jihadist drove a truck through crowds of revellers, killing 86 people.
ISIL news agency Amaq said Adnani "was martyred while surveying operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo" and pledged to avenge his death.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Adnani "has served as principal architect of ISIL's external operations and as ISIL's chief spokesman," using another name for the group.
"He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members," he said.
Adnani, who had a $5 million US bounty on his head, was originally from the western Syrian province of Idlib and joined the jihadist movement in Iraq, where he served under late Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Aymenn Jawad Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups, said his death was "significant symbolically and in pointing to the wider decline of the Islamic State".
"If a coalition air strike hit him, it shows intelligence penetration by the coalition is very high," he said.
A US defence official described him as one of IS's most senior leaders and far more significant than simply being the group's spokesman.
"Most notably, he served as ISIL's chief of external operations, directing and inspiring major terrorist attacks outside of Iraq and Syria," he said, linking Adnani to a string of high-profile attacks that have killed hundreds, including in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul.
"If confirmed, this is a very significant blow for ISIL, and will degrade its ability to direct and inspire terror attacks on the West," said the official who declined to be named.