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Several IS leaders in Iraq killed in air strikes: US officials

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US air strikes have killed several leaders of the Islamic State group in Iraq in recent weeks, dealing a blow to the jihadist forces, defense officials said Thursday.

"These were the result of a series of air strikes this month carried out over the course of several days," a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We've long said that command and control, including leadership, remain valid targets."

The strikes -- mostly carried out in northern Iraq -- were aimed at "degrading ISIL's ability to conduct command and control" of their forces, the official said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

The official said the operation was "not insignificant," and reflected a wider effort to pile pressure on the group as Iraqi forces prepare for a major counteroffensive in the coming months.

The strikes against senior figures came as Kurdish forces made gains against the IS militants around Sinjar near the Syrian border.

US officials named three figures who were killed in targeted raids, and said other "mid-level" leaders also were taken out.

"I can confirm that since mid-November, targeted coalition airstrikes successfully killed Haji Mutazz and Abd al Basit. Mutazz and Basit were considered high-level leaders within ISIL," a US defense official said.

Peshmerga fighters take a break after fighting in Zummar city in the northern Iraqi Governorate of N...
Peshmerga fighters take a break after fighting in Zummar city in the northern Iraqi Governorate of Nineveh, on December 18, 2014
Safin Hamed, AFP

"Additionally, since mid-September, we've killed several other mid-level ISIL leaders including Radwin Talib," the official said.

The chief of the extremist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was not among those killed, the official added.

Mutazz was believed to be a deputy to Baghdadi, while the man known as Basit was head of the group's military operations, and Talib was identified as a "governor" overseeing the captured northern city of Mosul, officials said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that US forces had taken out several key leaders, quoting the military's top officer, General Martin Dempsey.

"These are high-value targets, senior leadership," Dempsey told the Journal.

The newspaper, quoting unnamed officials, said between December 3 to December 9, air raids killed Basit and Mutazz.

The United States launched air strikes against the IS group on August 8 in Iraq, and expanded the raids to Syria on September 23. A coalition of Western and Arab countries has joined the US-led air campaign, which focused this week on IS militants around Sinjar.

Manhunts against senior leaders has become a common tactic in Washington's war against Al-Qaeda and affiliated extremists over the past decade.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, US intelligence agencies repeatedly targeted senior leaders in drone air strikes in Pakistan and the American military conducted frequent raids on the ground and in the air against senior insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

US air strikes have killed several leaders of the Islamic State group in Iraq in recent weeks, dealing a blow to the jihadist forces, defense officials said Thursday.

“These were the result of a series of air strikes this month carried out over the course of several days,” a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We’ve long said that command and control, including leadership, remain valid targets.”

The strikes — mostly carried out in northern Iraq — were aimed at “degrading ISIL’s ability to conduct command and control” of their forces, the official said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

The official said the operation was “not insignificant,” and reflected a wider effort to pile pressure on the group as Iraqi forces prepare for a major counteroffensive in the coming months.

The strikes against senior figures came as Kurdish forces made gains against the IS militants around Sinjar near the Syrian border.

US officials named three figures who were killed in targeted raids, and said other “mid-level” leaders also were taken out.

“I can confirm that since mid-November, targeted coalition airstrikes successfully killed Haji Mutazz and Abd al Basit. Mutazz and Basit were considered high-level leaders within ISIL,” a US defense official said.

Peshmerga fighters take a break after fighting in Zummar city in the northern Iraqi Governorate of N...

Peshmerga fighters take a break after fighting in Zummar city in the northern Iraqi Governorate of Nineveh, on December 18, 2014
Safin Hamed, AFP

“Additionally, since mid-September, we’ve killed several other mid-level ISIL leaders including Radwin Talib,” the official said.

The chief of the extremist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was not among those killed, the official added.

Mutazz was believed to be a deputy to Baghdadi, while the man known as Basit was head of the group’s military operations, and Talib was identified as a “governor” overseeing the captured northern city of Mosul, officials said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that US forces had taken out several key leaders, quoting the military’s top officer, General Martin Dempsey.

“These are high-value targets, senior leadership,” Dempsey told the Journal.

The newspaper, quoting unnamed officials, said between December 3 to December 9, air raids killed Basit and Mutazz.

The United States launched air strikes against the IS group on August 8 in Iraq, and expanded the raids to Syria on September 23. A coalition of Western and Arab countries has joined the US-led air campaign, which focused this week on IS militants around Sinjar.

Manhunts against senior leaders has become a common tactic in Washington’s war against Al-Qaeda and affiliated extremists over the past decade.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, US intelligence agencies repeatedly targeted senior leaders in drone air strikes in Pakistan and the American military conducted frequent raids on the ground and in the air against senior insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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