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Islamic State's second-in-command killed by US forces, Pentagon says

The killing is believed to be the second of a top IS commander in recent weeks.

Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli
Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli
Image: FBI

THE ISLAMIC STATE group suffered a double setback in Syria today as army troops recaptured the ancient citadel in Palmyra and the Pentagon said the jihadists’ second-in-command was killed in a US raid.

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter announced the killing of Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, described as IS’s second-in-command, at a news conference this afternoon.

“The removal of this Isil leader will hamper the ability for them to conduct operations inside and outside of Iraq and Syria,” Carter told reporters.

He declined to say whether al-Qaduli had been killed by a drone strike or in a bombing raid involving manned aircraft; nor would he specify whether the attack occurred in Syria or Iraq, though he said that any action in Iraq would only have been taken with Iraqi government approval.

The US Justice Department had offered a bounty of up to $7 million (€6.27 million) for information leading to al-Qaduli.

The killing is thought to be the second of a top IS commander in weeks. Earlier this month, the Pentagon said a man known as ”Omar the Chechen” was dead after suffering injuries in a US-led coalition strike in northeastern Syria.

The announcement came as Syrian troops backed by allied militia and Russian warplanes made fresh gains in Palmyra nearly a year after IS overran the Unesco world heritage site.

 

“Our armed forces, in coordination with the popular defence forces, have taken control of the ancient Palmyra citadel after inflicting many losses in the ranks of the terrorist group Daesh,” Syrian state television said, using another name for IS.

The army has also cut off the main Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway leading to the Iraqi border, the report said citing a military source.

Syria promotes tourism Palmyra in 2010 Source: AP/Press Association Images

Strategic victory

The jihadist group had taken over the citadel on 23 May last year and raised its notorious black and white flag over it.

The group has since blown up Unesco-listed temples and looted relics that dated back thousands of years, and murdered the former antiquities chief in Palmyra, Khaled al-Assaad.

Built in the 13th century, the citadel is Palmyra’s main Islamic-era monument.

IS claimed in September to have destroyed the Temple of Bel, which Unesco had described as one of the best preserved and most important first century religious edifices in the Middle East.

Palmyra’s full recapture would be a major strategic and symbolic victory for President Bashar al-Assad, since whoever holds it also controls the vast desert extending from central Syria to the Iraqi border.

© AFP 2016

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