The Islamic State said one of their key voices of outreach to recruits and right-hand man to self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in Syria.
“Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the spokesman of the Islamic State, was martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo,” the ISIS-affiliated Amaq News Agency said in a breaking-news statement today.
Adnani was born in 1977 in Binnish, Syria. He got into jihad before the U.S. invasion of Iraq and was one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s original henchmen with al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was arrested by coalition forces in 2005, released in 2010 and designated a global terrorist by the State Department in 2014.
The department’s Rewards for Justice program had a $5 million bounty on Adnani’s head. He was ISIS’ official spokesman and led Islamic State operations in Syria.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French, or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” Adnani had said.
State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters at today’s briefing he didn’t have confirmation of the ISIS claim that Adnani was killed.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook later said in a statement that “coalition forces conducted a precision strike near Al Bab, Syria, targeting Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani, one of ISIL’s most senior leaders.”
“We are still assessing the results of the strike, but Al-Adnani’s removal from the battlefield would mark another significant blow to ISIL,” Cook said. “Al-Adnani has served as principal architect of ISIL’s external operations and as ISIL’s chief spokesman. 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.”
“The U.S. military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIL leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world.”
ISIS released their weekly newspaper, al-Naba, bearing a previously unreleased cover photo of Adnani — from 2014, when ISIS released “The Breaking of the Borders” video.
ISIS supporters on Twitter were also circulating a biography of Adnani first posted in November 2014 on one of the file-sharing sites that remains a hotbed of ISIS propaganda to this day.
The bio said he “grew up with the love of mosques and with attending them frequently in his youth,” and loved “reading whatever he could lay his hands on” as a kid instead of playing with toys. It boasted he was able to recite the entire Quran from memory.
Adnani, the bio continued, was “amir at the inauguration of Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” and a training camp instructor. As a trainer, he “graduated a large number of students who have taken prominent positions in the Islamic State,” and “was the first to develop a comprehensive program…that covered all aspects: shari’a, physical strength, and military tactics. This was taught to all youngsters in all areas.” The biographer said he was one of those former students.
“He was imprisoned by the Americans twice, and was once jailed for nearly six years. He was put in a tent with Zarqawi and other prominent individuals who knew the first line of fighters with Zarqawi.”
The Islamic State’s media operation is so diffuse by this point — provinces are responsible for their media content so that there’s not one central website or studio that can be easily targeted — that propaganda likely won’t miss a beat following the spokesman’s death. ISIS released its usual amount of videos and photo essays today.
Amaq agency has also been serving as ISIS’ press release service of sorts, issuing news bulletins with daily operations and claims for attacks on foreign soil.
In June, Larossi Abballa, 25, who was born in France of Moroccan heritage, stabbed police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, outside his home in Magnanville, about 30 miles outside of Paris. Abballa then took Jessica Schneider, 36, a police station secretary, and the couple’s 3-year-old son hostage inside the home. He killed Schneider and mused in a Facebook livestream that he didn’t know what to do with the toddler. He told negotiators that he had pledged allegiance to ISIS three weeks earlier and was following Adnani’s directive for Western Muslims to mark Ramadan by attacking on their home turf.
Adnani’s calls for jihadists to carry out attacks by whatever means possible in their home countries got a hat tip in an ISIS video after the gruesome July cafe attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“I want to send this message to the crusaders: to the Christians and the Jews and the crusaders and their allies. When our sheikh Adnani ordered us to fight and to fight against you, he did not mean it as a joke,” the ISIS member said. “We are going to fight. In the end either we will win or we will get victory or we will get shahada – that is martyrdom. There is nothing to lose for us here, so this is a battle you can never win, and you will never win.”
“And what you witnessed in Bangladesh yesterday was just a glimpse – this will repeat and repeat and repeat until you lose and we win and the Sharia is established throughout the world. And you will never be able to stop it.”