ISIS second-in-command al-Adnani killed in Syria

ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. 2012 screen grab. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

ISIS’s official news agency has confirmed the death of their spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani who was killed whilst surveying operations in Aleppo.

Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s second-in-command and longest-serving member has been killed in Syria, the group’s Amaq news agency reported.

The group’s spokesman was killed “while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo”, Amaq said yesterday.

ISIS holds territory in the province of Aleppo, but not in the city where rebels are fighting Syrian regime forces.

Amaq did not say how Adnani died. However, a United States defence official told Reuters that the US had carried out an airstrike on Tuesday targeting Adnani.

The attack was on a vehicle in the town of al-Bab in Aleppo province but the official declined to say whether Adnani was killed.

The death is a major blow to ISIS. Drone strikes and attrition by other means have cut deep into the senior ranks of the organisation, and very few of the original leadership remain alive. 

Senior leaders are difficult to replace, even if some capable commanders remain, and this new casualty underlines the degree to which ISIS has been put under pressure in recent months.

The group is losing territory, financial resources and key personnel.

Profile: Abu Muhammad al-Adnani

Adnani, believed to have been in his 40s, is a particularly significant loss. The veteran fighter was the author of a series of declarations and speeches over four years, which particularly over the past 18 months, had gained a significant audience.

His speeches were known for their mix of calls to arms that western intelligence officials credit with inspiring a series of lone wolf attacks in the West.

Adnani also had a key operational role, heading up the “external operations department” of ISIS. This was tasked with the international strikes that have killed hundreds in the 26 months since ISIS seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and declared the so-called new “Caliphate”, with its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the self-professed Caliph.

Originally from the Idlib province in Syria, Adnani’s real name was Taha Subhi Falaha. He was a veteran of the anti-Western insurgency in the region.

He first fought alongside the founders of the group that would evolve into ISIS in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Incarcerated for several years and released around 2010 as ISIS began its campaign to carve out a new enclave in Iraq, Adnani rose rapidly through its ranks.

Several analysts have suggested that Adnani was being groomed as a potential successor to Baghdadi. A series of photographs showing the spokesman lecturing, holding meetings with commanders and overseeing the training of recruits was published by ISIS over recent months in an apparent bid to boost his profile and credibility.

The Iraqi government said in January that Adnani had been wounded in an airstrike in the western province of Anbar and then moved to the northern city of Mosul, the group’s capital in Iraq.

Adnani had been the chief propagandist for ISIS since the group declared the re-establishment of the Caliphate in June 2014.

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