U.S. airstrike on ISIS convoy killed leader’s key aide

The Guardian reports: A key aide to the leader of Islamic State (Isis) was killed in a US strike on a convoy near the Iraqi city of Mosul that destroyed 10 vehicles carrying a number of the group’s top militants.

Abdul Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Saja, is known to have died in the attack on Friday. A key aide to the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he travelled frequently with the group’s top leadership.

Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman at US central command, said on Saturday: “I can confirm that coalition aircraft did conduct a series of air strikes yesterday evening [Friday] in Iraq against what was assessed to be a gathering of Isil [Isis] leaders near Mosul. We cannot confirm if Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present.”

Iraqi officials were also unable to confirm whether Baghdadi was among the 50 casualties. Isis did not immediately issue any statement on the strikes.

The news came as Britain’s chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nick Houghton, warned on Sunday that the Isis leadership would regenerate itself even if Baghdadi had been killed.

In a sign that the UK believed there was a strong chance Baghdadi died in the air strikes, Houghton spoke of “potential death” as he said it would take some days for the US to confirm whether the Isis leader was alive or not.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, the general said: “I can’t absolutely confirm that al-Baghdadi has died. Even the Americans themselves are not yet in a position to do that. Probably it will take some days to have absolute confirmation.”

But Houghton warned that Isis would fight back if its leader had been killed. He said: “What I wouldn’t want to do is rush to the sense that the potential death of one of their totemic leaders is going to create some strategic reverse within Isis. They will regenerate leadership … because of the current potential attractiveness of this warped ideology. Unless we get the political dimension of the strategy in place then Isis has the potential to keep regenerating and certainly regenerating its leaders.” [Continue reading…]

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