US confirms IS top fighter Adnani targeted in Syria

The Russian defense ministry claimed a warplane killed "up to 40" IS fighters -- including Islamic State group spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani (pictured) -- in a bombing raid in Aleppo province Tuesday (AFP Photo/YouTube) (YouTube/AFP/File)
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Washington (AFP) - Coalition forces targeted senior Islamic State leader Abu Mohamed al-Adnani during an air strike in northern Syria on Tuesday, American officials said, without confirming his death.

"We are still assessing the results of the strike, but Adnani's removal from the battlefield would mark another significant blow to ISIL," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement, using an acronym for the violent extremist group.

IS earlier said Adnani had been killed in the province of Aleppo. Cook said the strike took place in the city of Al-Bab, in the same province.

Describing Adnani as the "principal architect" of the IS group's external operations and its main spokesman, Cook said he had "coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members."

A US defense official called Adnani "one of ISIL's most senior leaders," in line with analysts who have described him as a key figure in the group.

The official said Adnani had played a major role in the group during some of the most high-profile attacks over the past year, including in Paris, at the Brussels and Istanbul airports, at a cafe in Bangladesh, as well as the downing of a Russian airliner in the Sinai and suicide bombings at a rally in Ankara.

The attacks have killed more than 1,800 people and wounded almost 4,000.

"Adnani was a legacy AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) member, a Shura council member and the most publicly recognizable official in ISIL," the official said.

In September 2014, the US government designated Adnani a "global terrorist" and the State Department has offered a $5 million reward for anyone who supplies information that will bring him to justice.

"The US military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIL leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world," Cook said.

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