BEIRUT: One of the militant Islamic State (IS) group's top leaders, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, described by the US as the “principal architect” of the group's attacks on the West, has been killed in Syria, IS announced.
The United States (US) said coalition forces had carried out an air strike targeting Adnani in Syria's Aleppo province on Tuesday and that it was still assessing the results of the raid, but that his death would be a major blow to the group.
IS news agency Amaq said Adnani was killed "while surveying operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo" and pledged to avenge his death.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Adnani "has served as principal architect of ISIL's external operations and as ISIL's chief spokesman," using another name for the group.
"He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members," he said.
Adnani, who had a $5 million US bounty on his head, was originally from the western Syrian province of Idlib and joined the militant movement in Iraq, where he served under late Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Aymenn Jawad Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups, said his death was "significant symbolically and in pointing to the wider decline of IS".
A US defence official described him as one of IS's most senior leaders and far more significant than simply being the group's spokesman.
"Most notably, he served as ISIL's chief of external operations, directing and inspiring major terrorist attacks outside of Iraq and Syria," he said, linking Adnani to a string of high-profile attacks that have killed hundreds.
"If confirmed, this is a very significant blow for ISIL, and will degrade its ability to direct and inspire terror attacks on the West," said the official who declined to be named.