WASHINGTON, D.C.: Russia’s claim that it killed Islamic State group spokesman and top strategist Abu Mohamed al-Adnani is a “joke,” and the strike was conducted by a US Predator drone, American officials said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
The Russian defense ministry had earlier said an Su-34 warplane killed “up to 40” IS fighters — including Adnani — in a bombing raid near the village of Um Hosh in the province of Aleppo on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
“That’s a joke,” a US defense official told Agence-France Presse when asked about Moscow’s Adnani claim, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations. “It would be funny, if not for the character of the campaign the Russians have undertaken in Syria.”
Russia has been flying its own bombing campaign in Syria in support of leader Bashar al-Assad since last year, but this is the first time they have claimed to have killed a top-ranking IS leader.
The United States says coalition forces had targeted Adnani, who had a $5-million bounty on his head, in an air strike in Aleppo province on Tuesday, but the Pentagon is still assessing the result.
Another US official, again speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strike was carried out by a Predator drone that fired a Hellfire missile at a car in which Adnani was believed to have been traveling.
The Defense Department drone strike was conducted with help from American special operations forces working with the Central Intelligence Agency, the US official said.
The Pentagon is very cautious about confirming the identity of those targeted in strikes, as on previous occasions it has announced deaths only to later learn the individual was still alive.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook later said there was nothing to indicate Russia had killed Adnani.
“We don’t have any information to support what the Russians have put forward,” he told reporters.