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10 IS leaders killed in airstrikes – French linked to Paris attacks mastermind among dead

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WASHINGTON, Dec 29, (Agencies): An Islamic State leader with “direct” ties to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was among 10 senior figures in the group killed in Syria and Iraq this month, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Baghdad-based US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters that French national Charaffe al Mouadan was killed in a US-led coalition air strike on Dec 24. Mouadan had been actively plotting further attacks against the West, Warren said, without giving additional details. “He was a Syrian-based ISIL member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Paris attacks cell leader,” Warren said in a video call, using an alternative acronym for the IS group.

Mouadan, 26, was the son of Morocco-born parents and the last of eight children. He grew up in the suburbs of Paris, and was arrested in October 2012 while getting ready to leave with two neighborhood friends for either Yemen or Afghanistan, via Somalia, a source close to the investigation told AFP. The United States has since August 2014 led an international coalition attacking the IS group in Iraq and Syria. Warren declined to say if France had been involved in the strike against Mouadan. Among the other leaders killed in December was a Syria-based Bangladeshi man who was educated in Britain and was allegedly an IS hacker. “Now that he’s dead, ISIL has lost a key link between their networks,” Warren said. Warren described another man as a forgery specialist with “links to the Paris attack network,” but he declined to offer additional details. Meanwhile, Syrian troops backed by heavy aerial bombardment pushed towards a strategic town in the southern province of Deraa on Tuesday after capturing a nearby military base, the army said.

The Syrian army said it retook Brigade 82, one of the largest bases north of the mainly rebel-held town of Sheikh Maskin, whose capture by rebels earlier this year threatened the army’s supply routes to the south. A group monitoring the war said later on Tuesday that insurgents were putting up fierce resistance and that fighting raged on, counting more than two dozen air strikes during the assault. Media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders has retracted and apologised for a report it issued last week saying Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda had been threatened with execution in Syria.

The Paris-based Reporters group had said on Dec 22 that it had received information that an armed group holding the journalist hostage had started a countdown for an unspecified ransom to be paid and had threatened to execute or sell him to another group if their demands were not met. “The report was not drafted according to normal procedure and was not sufficiently verified. It has therefore been withdrawn pending fuller information,” RSF said on its website.

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