Middle East

IS leader Adnani: Russia says its air strike killed him

Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, image posted online by IS supporters Image copyright AP
Image caption Adnani was one of the IS group's most high-profile figures, with a $5m US bounty on his head

A Russian air strike in Syria killed the chief strategist of so-called Islamic State (IS), the defence ministry in Moscow has said.

The Amaq news agency, linked to IS, earlier acknowledged that Abu Muhammad al-Adnani had died in Aleppo province.

Russia says Adnani died on Tuesday in a Su-34 bomber raid on the village of Umm Hawsh.

The US had earlier said that one of its aircraft had targeted Adnani in the city of al-Bab.

Adnani was one of the IS group's most high-profile figures, with a $5m (£3.8m) bounty on his head.

The US said he had "co-ordinated the movement of Isil [IS] fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited" new members.

His death is considered a major blow to the jihadist group, which has suffered a series of military reverses in both Syria and Iraq.

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Umm Hawsh is 24km (15 miles) north of Aleppo and 28km west of al-Bab.

Russia's defence ministry said Adnani was one of up to 40 militants killed in air strikes there by the Su-34 bomber.

It said its information had been confirmed "through several intelligence channels".

This is the first time Moscow has said it has killed a key IS leader.

However later on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that "we have no information to support" Russia's involvement.

One unnamed US defence official earlier told Reuters news agency that "Russia's claim is a joke".

And another US official told Agence France-Presse that the US strike had been carried out by a Predator drone, which fired a Hellfire missile at a car believed to be carrying Adnani.

Adnani - who was also the group's spokesman - was "martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo", Amaq said, without giving details about how he died.

Fighting has escalated around the city in recent weeks, with rebels breaking a siege by government forces and Syrian and Russian warplanes bombing rebel-held areas.

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Media captionFrank Gardner considers what difference the death of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani will make to so-called Islamic State

One of the group's founder members, Adnani was born Taha Sobhi Falaha in the northern Syrian town of Banash in 1977.

In June 2014, he formally declared the establishment of the IS caliphate stretching across parts of Syria and Iraq under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He went on to release audio recordings urging lone-wolf attacks against civilians in nations that supported the US-led coalition against IS.

Earlier this year, he called for attacks during Ramadan, with followers carrying out the Orlando nightclub shooting, the truck attack in the French city of Nice and a massive suicide bombing in Baghdad.