WASHINGTON, D.C.: A coalition air strike in Syria has killed a senior Islamic State operative considered the group’s information minister, a week after another raid eliminated a top IS strategist, the Pentagon said on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, also known as “Dr. Wa’il,” was killed in a precision strike on September 7 near Raqa, the Syrian city that is the de facto capital of the Islamic State jihadist group.
“Wa’il oversaw ISIL’s production of terrorist propaganda videos showing torture and executions,” Cook said, describing him as “one of ISIL’s most senior leaders” and a close associate of Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the IS group spokesman killed on August 30.
US officials “will continue to work with our coalition partners to build momentum” in the campaign to deal the IS group “a lasting defeat,” he added.
The IS group is also referred to as ISIL and Daesh.
The announcement comes as air strikes and clashes are testing a fragile ceasefire in Syria.
Under the deal, Moscow must pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Washington must work with Syrian rebels to silence their guns.
If the truce, which began on Monday, lasts seven days and humanitarian access is granted, Russia and the United States are to work together to target jihadists, including the IS group and former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front.
Russia said that although only Moscow and the Syrian regime were fulfilling the truce deal, it was ready to extend the agreement by 72 hours.
The Pentagon also said that it had deployed dozens of US Special Operations Forces to Syria’s border with Turkey to fight the IS group at Ankara’s request in support of the Turkish military and “vetted” Syrian rebels.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated that Turkey and the United States have discussed an operation to push IS jihadists out of their de facto capital of Raqa in Syria but there have been no further details.
In Istanbul, Turkish police have detained more than 20 IS suspects, including a Syrian man believed to be organizing an attack in Istanbul, a local newspaper reported on Saturday.
Police arrested the man, identified as Ali al-Aggal and codenamed Azzov, believed to be the IS group’s organizer of Turkey attacks, in an operation in the Turkish capital Ankara, Haber-Turk newspaper reported.
In a separate raid, police held 24 other IS suspects from Iraq and Syria in the Kucukcekmece district of Istanbul, the newspaper said.
It said nine of the suspects were suspected of having direct contacts with al-Aggal and were awaiting explosives and ammunition from him in order to carry out an attack in Istanbul.
The remaining 15 suspects were planning to cross the Turkish border into conflict zones, the newspaper said.
Police found out that suspected IS jihadists used the building in Kucukcekmece as a “sleeper cell” and seized many documents and digital materials allegedly belonging to the extremist group, according to the report.
Turkey has suffered a series of attacks blamed on IS jihadists including a suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding in a city close to the Syrian border in August.
The latest arrests come as several embassies, including Britain’s, closed on Friday for security reasons.
A member of the anti-IS coalition led by the United States, Turkey has started to take an active role in the fight against the jihadist group after it had long been criticized by its Western allies for not doing enough.
Turkey in recent months has also cracked down on the group’s sleeper cells and launched an ambitious operation inside Syria to oust jihadists and Syrian Kurdish militia from its frontier.