A U.S. airstrike this month killed a senior Islamic State militant who oversaw the group’s information and propaganda activities, the Pentagon said Friday.
The strike against Wael Adel Salman al-Fayad took place Sept. 7 around the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. Cook described Fayad as “one of ISIL’s most senior leaders,” who was minister of information and a member of the group’s Shura Council. ISIL is an acronym for the Islamic State.
Cook said the Fayad had been a key figure in the Islamic State’s production of gory videos showing the mistreatment and slaughter of prisoners.
President Obama was briefed on the strike at a National Security Council meeting at the White House Friday that administration officials said focused on the militant group’s external operations and plans for upcoming offenses in Mosul, in Iraq, and Raqqa, in Syria.
Building on what Obama has publicly described as a successful push against the militants in Iraq, administration officials said the Iraqi military had reached a “major milestone” with the recapture of 50 percent of territory occupied by the Islamic State.
Positioning for an offensive against the militants in Mosul, the northern Iraqi city that they have occupied since they first bulldozed through retreating Iraqi forces in the summer of 2014, has continued, but an official, speaking on condition of anonymity about the classified session, declined to discuss a timeline.
Similarly, the official said there would be no public discussion of a timeline for an offensive of U.S.-backed Syrian forces, supported by airstrikes and U.S. Special Operations Forces, to launch an anticipated offensive to recapture Raqqa, the Islamic State’s Syrian headquarters.
Moves on both Mosul and Raqqa, the official said, would happen “as soon as practical.”
The online activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently reported the death of Fayad, also known as Abu Mohamed Furqan, earlier in the day on Twitter. The group said that Fayad had led the Islamic State’s sophisticated online and social media operations, which have helped promote the militants’ message and attract follows from North Africa to the former Soviet Union.
— الرقة تذبح بصمت (@Raqqa_SL) September 16, 2016
The news of Fayad’s death comes several days after the Pentagon said it had confirmed that Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State spokesman, died in a U.S. strike in August. According to Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, Fayad had been designated for selecting someone to replace Adnani, who died just a week before Fayad.
As the Obama administration targets Islamic State leaders from the air, the U.S. military is hoping to accelerate the ground campaign against the group in both Syria and Iraq. U.S. Special Operations troops are now on the ground in Syria supporting partner forces battling the Islamic State.