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IS Group: Spokesman Killed in Syria    08/31 06:33

   BEIRUT (AP) -- The Islamic State group's spokesman and chief strategist, who 
laid out the blueprint for the extremist group's attacks against the West, has 
been killed while overseeing operations in northern Syria, the group has 
announced.

   The IS-run Aamaq news agency said Abu Mohammed al-Adnani was "martyred while 
surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns in Aleppo." It did not 
provide any further details on when or how he died.

   A later statement issued by the Islamic State group in Aleppo province vowed 
to avenge his death. Both statements were released late Tuesday evening.

   His death is a major blow to the extremist group, which has been on the 
retreat in Syria and Iraq, where the borders of its self-declared Islamic 
caliphate have been steadily eroded in recent months.

   Al-Adnani, whose real name is Taha Sobhi Falaha, persistently called for 
attacks against the West, which paid off in bloody notoriety with the Nov. 13 
coordinated attacks in Paris that hit a concert hall, a stadium and restaurants 
and bars, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

   Al-Adnani is a Syrian who was born in the northern province of Idlib and is 
believed to be in his late 30s. He crossed the border and joined al-Qaida in 
Iraq, a precursor to IS, after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

   In late June 2014, he formally declared the establishment of a caliphate, or 
Islamic state, stretching across parts of Syria and Iraq, under the leadership 
of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide.

   A powerful orator, he went on to become the voice of IS. He released 
numerous, lengthy audio files online in which he delivered fiery sermons urging 
followers to kill civilians in nations that supported the U.S.-led coalition 
against the group.

   "If you can kill a disbelieving American or European --- especially the 
spiteful and filthy French --- or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other 
disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the 
countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon 
Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be," al-Adnani said in 
2014.

   In other speeches he referred to U.S. President Barack Obama as "an idiot" 
and Secretary of State John Kerry as an "uncircumcised old geezer."

   Earlier this year, he called for massive attacks during Ramadan --- a call 
that translated into the bloodiest Muslim holy month in recent memory. 
Followers of IS carried out attacks on several continents, including the 
Orlando shooting, the Nice truck attack in France and a massive suicide bombing 
in downtown Baghdad.

   Al-Adnani also disparaged Saudi Arabia and its influential clerics for 
failing to rally behind the rebels that the monarchy supports in Syria, as they 
did decades ago in Afghanistan.

   In Washington, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed that a U.S. 
airstrike on Tuesday targeted al-Adnani in the Syrian city of al-Bab, which is 
northeast of Aleppo.

   "We are still assessing the results of the strike, but Al-Adnani's removal 
from the battlefield would mark another significant blow to (the Islamic State 
group)," Cook said.

   Aleppo is a current focal point of the civil war in Syria, where IS, Syrian 
Kurdish forces, Turkey-backed rebels and President Bashar Assad's forces are 
vying for control. The province is frequently struck by U.S.-led coalition 
airstrikes as well as Russian air raids.

   The Islamic State group statement vowed revenge against the "filthy cowards 
in the sect of disbelief." It said a generation raised in IS-held territory 
would avenge al-Adnani's death.

   The Islamic State group has suffered a string of defeats in recent weeks, 
including in Aleppo province, where Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels 
drove IS out of the border town of Jarablus last week.

   In Iraq, the group has lost its strongholds in Fallujah and Ramadi, in the 
western Anbar province. It still controls Mosul, but Iraqi forces are gearing 
up for a long-awaited operation to retake the country's second largest city.

   It has also lost some of its most senior commanders and founding members 
over the past year, including its "minister of war" Omar al-Shishani, feared 
Iraqi militant Shaker Wuhayeb, also known as Abu Wahib, and a top finance 
official known by several names, including Abu Ali Al-Anbari.


(KA)

 
 
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