Pentagon Not Buying Russia's Claim That Their Airstrike Killed ISIS' No. 2 Leader
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Pentagon said today there is "no information to support Russia's claim that they also carried out a strike" that killed ISIS' spokesman and Syria commander Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.
ISIS said Tuesday that Adnani, 39, "was martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo." The new issue of their weekly newspaper, Naba, already bore a cover tribute to the Syrian jihadist who originally fought with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"On August 30, 2016, the strike of a Russian bomber #Su34 carried out near the Maaratat-Um-Haush (#Aleppo province) has eliminated a large concentration of #ISIS militants (up to 40 people)," Russia's Ministry of Defense posted on their Facebook page.
"Among those terrorists, according to the information confirmed through several intelligence channels, there was the military leader Abu Mohammad al-Adnani known as the Spokesperson of the international terrorist organization the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,'" the statement continued. "Abu Mohammad al-Adnani was considered to be the second person in the ISIS after his leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and was notorious for appeals for terrorist attacks in the countries of Western #Europe and in the #USA."
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters today that the United States had "actively been looking for Adnani for some time, given his prominent role within the organization."
"And I'm not going to get into intelligence or operational matters, but we have already confirmed for you all that we conducted a precision strike yesterday targeting Adnani near al-Bab, Syria. And we are still assessing the results of that strike," Cook said.
"Now, with regard to the Russians, we have no information to support Russia's claim that they also carried out a strike against Adnani. And I would just note that from the start, Russia, as you know, has spent most of its time, its military campaign supporting and propping up the Assad regime. It has not devoted much, if any, effort that we're aware of targeting ISIL's leadership. And at the same time, we have not seen the Russian military campaign use precision weaponry on a regular basis as well."
Cook added that "if that's changing, that would be a good thing."
"But again, we have no information at this time to support the claim that they also conducted a strike in this way," he said, stressing a "rigorous process" was underway to review the strike. "...I know what ISIL itself has said. I know what the Russians have said. We don't trust -- we're not going to be satisfied simply to trust ISIL and the Russians on this when we go through our process."
The spokesman emphasized that it was "a precision strike that we carried out, after extensive review and a very deliberate process -- and so we conducted the strike, as we have other strikes against high-value targets."
Washington has been critical of Russia for striking ally Bashar Assad's opposition instead of ISIS. Before ISIS said Adnani had been killed, the Institute for the Study of War released its latest map of where Russia has been targeting its airstrikes.