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Russian-U.S. Race to Claim Responsibility for Death of ISIS’ Adnani | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Abu Mohammed al-Adnani speaking at an undisclosed location. AFP-Getty Images

Beirut- It seems that the death of Abu Mohammed al-Adnani is paving the way to the destruction of the terrorist organization ISIS. Adnani is the only Syrian member who was in direct contact with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and is considered the link between the leadership and the Syrian militants.

Soon after ISIS announced the death of Adnani in Aleppo, both Russia and U.S. announced that their air forces killed him.

ISIS released a statement saying that Adnani’s real name is Taha Sobhi Falaha from Idlib. Adnani was “martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns in Aleppo,” it said, vowing to avenge his death. It did not provide any further details on when or how he died.

The Pentagon announced that the U.S.-led international coalition conducted a precision strike, killing Adnani, saying the Defense Department is still assessing the results of the strike.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said: “Today coalition forces conducted a precision strike near Al Bab, Syria, targeting Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani, one of ISIS’ most senior leaders. We are still assessing the results of the strike, but Al-Adnani’s removal from the battlefield would mark another significant blow to ISIS.

“Al-Adnani, has served as principal architect of ISIS’ external operations and as ISIS’ chief spokesman. He has coordinated the movement of ISIS fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIS members. The U.S. military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIS leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIS’ parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world.”
Russia’s claim that it killed Adnani is a “joke,” and the strike was conducted by a U.S. Predator drone, American officials said.

The Russian defense ministry had earlier said an Su-34 warplane killed “up to 40” ISIS fighters — including Adnani — in a bombing raid near the village of Um Hosh in the province of Aleppo on Tuesday.

The death of Adnani is yet another success in infiltrating the structure of the organization.

First of all, he is considered very close to the leadership, given that in 2014 he announced the establishment of the supposed “Islamic Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. He is also a very important symbol considering he is one of the plotters of terrorist attacks on western countries.

Syrian opposition member and expert on extremist organizations Abdul Rahman al-Haj told Asharq Al-Awsat that though Adnani had a limited role in the military leadership, he is the only Syrian leader, and by his death, Syrian fighters have lost their link with the high-ranking commanders. He added that the symbolism of Adnan lies in the fact that he is Syrian and an al-Qaeda defector.

Haj said the death of Adnani shows that the international coalition can reach ISIS’ leadership.

“If the death of Abu Omar al-Shishani not long time ago was reflected on the military performance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, then the death of Adnani will have consequences on the psychological aspect of the Syrian fighters.”

In July, ISIS announced the death of one of its important leaders, Abu Omar al-Shishani. In March, Washington announced the death of second-in-command Abul Rahman al-Qaduli.

Haj believes that ISIS will continue to withdraw from west of the Euphrates, meaning that it is getting weaker, and the repeated strikes will lead the organization to withdraw to the center and east of Syria to maintain its financial resources.

Aleppo became the target city of foreign fighters, known as the “immigrants”, especially with Adnani their contact and instigator for more terrorist operations in the west. He became known to the western intelligence as “Minister of Attacks” since he was in charge of supervising the operations.

Kurdish researcher and former leader in Kobani Idris Naasan said that Bab is the destination for ISIS’ foreign members and prison for its detainees. He added that 140 detainees managed to escape three days ago had confirmed that the city contains one of the largest jails for ISIS.

In addition, the city is the center of planning for outer operations and connection between the leadership in Syria and fighters on the outside.

Naasan told Asharq Al-Awsat that after the liberation of Manbij and Jarablus, ISIS’ leaders and fighters moved to Bab considering it a strategic base.

The researcher pointed out that ISIS considers Bab to be a safe city and is similar to Manbij which was kept outside the spotlight. He added that, according to his information, Bab is indeed the center for operation planning and attraction point for foreign fighters.

Yet, Abdul Rahman al-Hajj contradicts this information saying they have political purposes. He explained that Bab was not the sole center for the organization.

Hajj said that ISIS’ strategic areas are center and east Syria, and areas to the south of Euphrates like Bab are vital for the organization and it will try to maintain it.

Expert on terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq Hashem al-Hashimi said the fact that Adnani moved from Bou Kamal and Der Ezzor to Bab means that the battle in Aleppo is very important and needed his direct supervision.