By Missy Ryan
The Washington Post
The Islamic State’s media arm reported on Tuesday the death of the group’s chief spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a senior militant closely tied to militant efforts to launch attacks in the West.
In a tweet, Amaq news agency said that Adnani was killed while inspecting troops in Aleppo. It did not say exactly where the alleged event occurred or how Adnani died.
Adnani’s death has been rumored several times before. U.S. officials were not immediately able to confirm Amaq’s report but suggested that if Adnani is in fact dead, the United States may not have played a role in his death.
U.S. war planes continue their long air war over Syria, but their strikes have been focused in areas where Islamic State fighters are concentrated, most recently in eastern and far northern Syria. Russian and Syrian planes meanwhile have intensified their activities over Aleppo, gripped by intense fighting as government-backed forces and rebels battle for control of the city.
If confirmed, Adnani’s death would be a blow to the Islamic State even as territory under its control recedes and its access to fighters and finances is restricted. Adnani has played a key role in articulating the group’s vision and rallying militants around its cause.
The U.S. military claims to have killed 45,000 militants, including a number of senior leaders, in air and long-range rocket attacks since its campaign against the Islamic State began. But the group continues to control two of Iraq and Syria’s largest cities and have vowed to resort to guerrilla attacks.