WASHINGTON — A deputy to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a United States airstrike in Iraq this week, the White House announced Friday.
Ned Price, the National Security Council spokesman, said in a news release that Fadel al-Hayali, whom the Obama administration described as the Sunni militant group’s “Baghdad military emir” as well as the emir of Nineveh Province, was killed in a military airstrike on Aug. 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq.
Mr. Hayali, the administration said, was an Islamic State Shura Council member and the senior deputy to Mr. Baghdadi within the group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. He was a primary coordinator for moving large amounts of explosives, weapons, vehicles and people between Iraq and Syria, and he supported Islamic State operations in both countries, Mr. Price said in the release.
He said the killing of Mr. Hayali, who a defense official said helped plan the group’s successful offensive in Mosul last June, strikes a blow to the Islamic State’s operations “given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations and logistics.”
An Islamic State media operative known as Abu Abdullah was also killed in the airstrike, Mr. Price said.
The United States and coalition partners have for months been conducting airstrikes at Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, where the Sunni militant group has taken control of a number of major cities and towns like Mosul and Ramadi, American warplanes have targeted senior group leaders as part of what the White House calls its effort to “degrade and destroy” the militant group.
Since the airstrikes began last year, the United States military has killed several of Mr. Baghdadi’s deputies, including the militant group’s conduit for outreach to extremists in North Africa and a middle-level Islamic State leader, Abu Sayyaf, whom Pentagon officials described as the Islamic State’s “emir of oil and gas.”
In most of the targeted killings however, the operatives have been replaced fairly quickly, and defense officials acknowledged on Friday that would likely be the case again. “This is not Baghdadi,” one defense official said, speaking on grounds of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
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(via NY Times)