ISIS leader Abu Alaa al-Afri, the militant group’s second in command, has reportedly been killed in a coalition airstrike in Iraq’s Tal Afar city.
The Iraqi military announced the death of the ISIS leader, who had been serving as proxy leader after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was badly injured in another strike earlier this year.
A spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department told CNN that they could not verify whether the ISIS leader had been killed, but U.S. Central Command did clear up what it said was some incorrect reporting. The agency said that aircraft “did not strike a mosque as some of the press reporting has alleged,” a statement said.
“We have significant mitigation measures in place within the targeting process and during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties,” Central Command added.
The stand-in leader for ISIS, al-Afri was a former physics teacher. Many believed he would have taken over as leader of ISIS if Baghdadi had been killed.
“After Baghdadi’s wounding, he [Afri] has begun to head up Daesh [Arabic term for ISIS] with the help of officials responsible for other portfolios,” said Hisham al Hashimi, an Iraqi government adviser. “He will be the leader of Daesh if Baghdadi dies.”
If the reports are true, the death of the ISIS leader would be a major victory for the coalition forces. As CNN reported, al-Afri was known by other aliases, and came with a large bounty on his head.
“Hisham al-Hashimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government, has said that al-Afri also went by the name Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli — a name that was added to the U.S. Rewards for Justice list just last week. The U.S. State Department offered a $7 million reward for information on him — the highest for any ISIS leader apart from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is valued at $10 million.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, which designated him as a ‘specially designated global terrorist’ exactly a year ago, the man known as al-Qaduli was born in the Iraqi city of Mosul in either 1957 or 1959.”
The killing of the ISIS leader is the latest blow against the militant group by coalition forces. After taking large portions of Iraq and Syria over the course of the last year, ISIS has been pushed back by both U.S.-led airstrikes and from Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq and lost much of the land it had seized.
[Image via Islam Media Analysis]