Russia claims 'Islamic State' group leaders killed in Syria airstrike

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Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on Friday four prominent leaders of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group¬†have been killed in an airstrike outside the city of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria.

“As a result of a precision airstrike of the Russian air forces in the vicinity of Deir Ezzor city, a command post, communication center and some 40 ISIS fighters have been killed,” the Russian defense ministry said Friday in a statement. The strike was carried out by Su-34 fighter-bombers and Su-35 fighters.

The strike followed an intelligence report that showed the IS commanders were meeting in an underground command post outside Deir el-Zour, the ministry said

Read more:‘Islamic State’ chief al-Baghdadi probably still alive: US general

The Russian military named Gulmurod Khalimov and Abu Muhammad al-Shimali as two of the four IS leaders. The other two were not named. Khalimov, who had been described as the group’s minister of war,¬†suffered a “fatal injury,” the ministry said.
Khalimov defected to the militants in 2015 after serving as the head of the riot police force in Tajikistan.

As a senior police commander, Khalimov travelled to the United States on several occasions for counter-terrorism training.

Al-Shimali is reported to have overseen the movement of foreign fighters into Syria and processed the group’s new recruits.

Heavy fighting is taking place between Syrian government forces and IS around Deir el-Zour.President Bashar Assad’s troops on Tuesday broke the nearly three-year militant blockade of parts of the city.

ap/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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