On Wednesday, the Iraqi military announced that the deputy leader of ISIS was killed in a coalition airstrike. However, the Pentagon said it does not corroborate with the latest development.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry stated that Abu Alaa al-Afri and senior ISIS security figure Akram Qirbash (also known as “Judge of Judges”) were killed in an airstrike that rocked a mosque in northern Iraq’s Tal Afar city.
According to NBC News, the Iraqi military said in a statement that an “unknown number” of ISIS fighters were killed in the strike.
U.S. Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the United States could not verify whether senior members of ISIS were killed in the airstrike.
In a statement, U.S. Central Command said coalition aircraft “did not strike a mosque as some of the press reporting has alleged.
“We have significant mitigation measures in place within the targeting process and during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties.”
Hisham al-Hashimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government, said that al-Afri’s name was included in the U.S. Rewards for Justice list last week with a reward of $7 million for information on him. The reward is the second highest for any ISIS member, only behind Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who has a $10 million reward against his name).
Al-Afri also goes by the name Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, according to CNN.
It could not be verified if al-Afri is al-Qaduli, though the United States has said that Abu Ala was one of al-Qaduli’s aliases.
Al-Qaduli joined al Qaeda in 2004 and became the terrorist organization’s deputy leader and commander in Mosul.
The U.S. Treasury Department labelled him a “specially designated global terrorist” a year ago.
Al-Afri was standing in for al-Baghdadi, who is suffering from a spinal injury. Al-Afri took control of the militant outfit seeing the seriousness of al-Baghdadi’s medical condition.
According to The Guardian, al-Baghdadi’s injuries kept him away from resuming command of the outfit following al-Afri’s death. Sources say his injuries may prevent him from taking charge of ISIS again.
“They are planning to fight back against Europe. They want to take revenge for Baghdadi,” an ISIS member said.
In December, al-Baghdadi escaped death when a two-car convoy containing al-Baghdadi in the outskirts of Mosul was attacked by U.S. jets. Al-Baghdadi was in the second car, which was not hit by the missile fired from the plane.
Since September, more than 6,000 fighters have been killed in airstrikes. More than half of these fighters were associated with ISIS, as reported by Daily Mail.
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