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US Reports It Killed Senior ISIS Leader in Syria

A senior ISIS leader in Syria has been killed as the result of an airstrike, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

U.S.-led coalition forces battling ISIS killed Turki al-Bin’ali in a May 31 attack on the eastern Syrian city of Mayadin, according to a statement issued by U.S. Central Command.

The statement said al-Bin’ali was the “the self-proclaimed ‘Grand Mufti,’ or chief cleric of ISIS.” ISIS had announced Al-Bin’ali’s death earlier this month.

“Al-Bin’ali had a central role in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and provoking terrorist attacks around the world,” according to a statement from the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.

“As chief cleric to ISIS since 2014, he provided propaganda to incite murder and other atrocities, attempted to legitimize the creation of the ‘caliphate,’ and was a close confidant of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the statement said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said last week it had unconfirmed reports that al-Baghdadi was killed in a May 28 airstrike by Russian forces near the city of Raqqa. That claim has not been confirmed.

Al-Bin’ali was a major force in trying to recruit for ISIS.

“His recruiting efforts for the terror group also included multiple recorded lectures attempting to justify and encouraging the slaughter of innocents,” the Centcom statement said.

Despite leadership losses, ISIS still holds out against coalition forces trying to take Raqqa, the last major ISIS stronghold in Syria, and has been increasing its use of drones against the attackers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov has noted that killing leaders does not mean the organization will die.

“Examples of such actions to destroy or ‘behead’ a terrorist group have always been presented with great enthusiasm,” he said recently. “However, history shows that the fighting capacity of these structures was restored.”

Tensions have risen in Syria after the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet and an Iranian drone. Although both Syria and Iran say they are fighting ISIS, the U.S. has argued that they are seeking to attack Syrian rebel forces supported by the U.S. that are opposed to the Russia-backed regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.