BEIRUT, Aug 30, (RTRS): Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, one of the jihadist group’s longest-serving and most prominent leaders, has been killed in Aleppo in Syria, its Amaq News Agency reported on Tuesday in a statement distributed by the group’s supporters. Amaq reported that Adnani was killed “while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo”. Islamic State holds territory in the province of Aleppo, but not in the city where rebels are fighting Syrian government forces. Amaq did not say how Adnani was killed.
Islamic State published a eulogy dated Aug 29 but giving no further details. Recent advances by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, and by Syrian rebels backed by Turkey, have made inroads into Islamic State holdings in Aleppo province, cutting them off from the Turkish border and supply lines along it.
Iraq said in January that Adnani had been wounded in an air strike in the western province of Anbar and then moved to the northern city of Mosul, Islamic State’s capital in Iraq. Adnani is a Syrian from Idlib, southwest of Aleppo, who pledged allegiance to Islamic State’s predecessor al-Qaeda more than a decade ago and was once imprisoned by US forces in Iraq, according to the Brookings Institution.
He has been the chief propagandist for the ultra-hardline jihadist group since he declared in a June 2014 statement that it was establishing a modernday caliphate spanning large swaths of territory it had seized in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Adnani has often been the face of the Sunni militant group, such as when he issued a message in May urging attacks on the United States and Europe during the holy month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s army chief signalled no let up in a Syria offensive Washington has criticised for targeting US-backed Kurdish fighters as well as jihadists, and said its successes showed last month’s failed coup had not dented the military’s power. Turkish-backed forces began the offensive last week by capturing the Syrian frontier town of Jarablus from Islamic State; they then advanced on areas controlled by Kurdish-aligned militias which have US support in battling jihadists. Turkey, which is fighting a Kurdish insurgency at home, has openly said the operation dubbed “Euphrates Shield” has a dual goal of driving away Islamic State and preventing Kurdish forces extending their areas of control along the Turkish border.
Washington said the offensive by its NATO ally risked undermining the fight against Islamic State because it was focusing on Kurdish-aligned militias. Ankara says it will not take orders from anyone on how to protect the nation. “By pursuing the Euphrates Shield operation, which is crucial for our national security and for our neighbours’ security, the Turkish Armed Forces are showing they have lost none of their strength,” Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said in a statement on Tuesday to mark a national holiday.
On the eve of the Victory Day holiday, President Tayyip Erdogan said the operation would continue until all threats, including that of Kurdish militia fighters, were removed from the border area. Turkey is still reeling from an attempted coup in July in which rogue military commanders used warplanes and tanks to try to oust Erdogan and the government, exposing splits in the ranks of NATO’s second biggest military. In a subsequent purge of suspected coup sympathisers, 80,000 people have been removed from both civilian and military duties, including many generals, officers and rank-and-file soldiers.