major blow’ by death of second-in-command Abu Muhammad al-Adnani in air strike claimed by US and Russia
Isis have been dealt a “major blow” by the death of senior leader Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani as it continues scrambling to defend territory across Syria and Iraq, experts have said.
The terrorist group’s second-in-command was killed in an air strike in the Syrian province of Aleppo in a significant victory claimed by both the US and Russia, indicating a formidable level of intelligence on jihadists’ movements.
Adnani headed the so-called Islamic State’s feared “Emni” security service and its propaganda wing, becoming known for speeches calling on supporters to carry out terror attacks around the world.
His messages were directly cited by several attackers who carried out atrocities in Europe and his influence on massacres and foreign fighters drew a $5 million (£4 million) bounty from the US.
Adam Deen, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, told The Independent Isis would be “scrambling to find a replacement.”
“His death is a major blow,” he added. “Isis is dependent on personality cults and celebratisation of key leaders.
“This is something hard to replace and Adnani was something of a household name.
“When Mohammed Emwazi [the British executioner known as Jihadi John] was killed, Isis never found a replacement with the same celebrity impact. They still haven’t – hammering key influence figures is therefore vital.”
Emwazi, who became notorious after appearing in a series of gory propaganda videos showing the deaths of foreign hostages, was killed in an American drone strike on Raqqa last year.
The US air campaign has continued targeting high-profile members of the terrorist group, recently killing Chechen commander Abu Omar al-Shishani.
In its own propaganda statement announcing Adnani’s death, Isis appeared to acknowledge the impact, asking “Allah to alleviate this hardship for us”.
The group’s eulogy said Adnani was targeted while surveying military operations in Aleppo province, where its fighters hold frontlines against opposition groups, the Syrian army and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
It ended with a threat directed at the “filthy cowards from the religion of disbelief and the carriers of the cross” of more attacks.
“A generation has been born in the Islamic State that has been raised upon might and defiance and that will not accept humiliation,” the statement said. “They love death more than your love of life…the blood of their leaders will only increase the steadfastness upon the path of jihad and increase their resolve to exact revenge against their enemies.”
The statement appeared to refer to thousands of children born under Isis rule in Iraq and Syria, who are brainwashed from a young age and sent to military training camps.
Europe’s law enforcement agency Europol previously warned the boys could become the “next generation” of Isis terrorists, either continuing insurgencies in the Middle East or being deployed abroad.
Mr Deen said Adnani’s death could trigger new attacks in Europe as Isis continues to operate sleeper cells and sent back trained foreign recruits, despite the weakening of its military capability by a series of significant territorial losses.
Jane Kinninmont, the deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House, warned it would be “wishful thinking” to believe Isis will be significantly undermined.
Now is the time to push hard with local resistance activity, just like that in Europe during the Second World War to defeat the Nazis. These murderous gangsters and terrorists have had their time and need to be defeated now! And funding is available if you know who to ask.