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Conflicting Reports Emerge on Death of ISIS Second-in-Command in Airstrike | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US F-18s flying operations over Iraq against the ISIS group. (AFP)

Baghdad – The death of ISIS second-in-command, Ayad al-Jumaili, is yet to be confirmed following an airstrike in the Iraqi region of al-Qaim.

An Iraqi intelligence said on Saturday that he was killed in the raid, while the US-led anti-ISIS coalition was unable to confirm the information that was reported earlier in the day by Iraqi state-run TV.

Jumaili was killed with other ISIS commanders in a strike carried out by the Iraqi air force in the region of al-Qaim, near the border with Syria, a military intelligence spokesman told Reuters.

“The air force’s planes executed with accuracy a strike on the headquarters of ISIS in al-Qaim .. resulting in the killing of ISIS second-in-command…Ayad al-Jumaili, alias Abu Yahya, the war minister,” state TV said earlier, citing a statement from the directorate of military intelligence.

Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, have been battling since October to retake the city of Mosul, the militant group’s last major stronghold in Iraq and the city where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called “caliphate” nearly three years ago.

Nearly 290,000 people have fled the city to escape the fighting, according to the United Nations.

The Iraqi state TV report is the first by an official media to announce the death of Jumaili, who was an intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president toppled in the 2003 US-led invasion.

Jumaili led ISIS’s top security agency in Iraq and Syria, known as Amniya, answering directly to Baghdadi, according to experts.

Although the loss of Mosul would effectively end the extremist group’s territorial rule in Iraq, US and Iraqi officials are preparing for the group to go underground and fight an insurgency like the one that followed the US-led invasion.

The last official report about Baghdadi was from the Iraqi military on February 13. Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, they said in a statement.

More than 40 leading members of the group have been killed in coalition air strikes, according to experts. Baghdadi has not officially appointed a successor.

On Thursday, the US-led coalition said that it had killed a propaganda chief and associates in an air strike in al-Qaim.

Ibrahim Al-Ansari was an “important ISIS leader,” said Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition.

The propaganda official was a leader in propoganda efforts to recruit foreign fighters and encourage “terror attacks” in western countries, Scrocca told reporters.

The air strike took place on March 25, he said.

The bombardment, which also killed four other ISIS militants, destroyed a multimedia operation team, said another Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Their propaganda efforts included “brainwashing of young children to perpetuate ISIS brutal methods,” the source said.