BAGHDAD: Ayad al-Jumaili, believed to be a deputy of Daesh (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in an airstrike Friday, an Iraqi intelligence spokesman said Saturday.
The U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition said it was unable at the moment to confirm the information that was reported earlier in the day by Iraqi state-run TV.
Jumaili was killed with other Daesh commanders in a strike carried out by the Iraqi air force in the region of Al-Qaim, near the border with Syria, a military intelligence spokesman told Reuters.
“The air force’s planes executed with accuracy a strike on the headquarters of Daesh in Al-Qaim ... resulting in the killing of Daesh’s second-in-command ... Ayad al-Jumaili, alias Abu Yahya, the war minister,” state TV said earlier, citing a statement from the directorate of military intelligence.
Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, have been battling since October to retake the city of Mosul, Daesh’s last major stronghold in Iraq and the city where Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” nearly three years ago. U.S. and Iraqi officials believe Baghdadi has left operational commanders with die-hard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert with senior commanders.
The Iraqi state TV report is the first by an official media outlet to announce the death of Jumaili, who was an intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president toppled in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Jumaili led Daesh’s top security agency in Iraq and Syria, known as Amniya, answering directly to Baghdadi, experts said.
The last official report about Baghdadi was from the Iraqi military on Feb. 13. Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, they said in a statement. More than 40 leading members of the group have been killed in coalition airstrikes, according to experts. Baghdadi has not officially appointed a successor.