ISIS says its leader who urged 'lone wolf' attacks on the West has been killed

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani isisCNNAbu Muhammed al-Adnani.

ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani has been killed near Aleppo, Syria, the terrorist group said on Tuesday.

Adnani was a top-ranking lieutenant inside ISIS who was responsible for coordinating attacks on Western targets and releasing propaganda statements on behalf of the group.

The ISIS-linked Amaq news agency released a statement on Tuesday declaring his death. ISIS followed Amaq’s statement with an official statement of its own released through its online channels. The circumstances surrounding his death were immediately unclear, but the US reportedly carried out an airstrike recently in Al Bab, not far from Aleppo, targeting a senior ISIS official.

Adnani’s death is a “major blow” to the group, according to Rita Katz, a terrorism analyst and the director of the SITE Intelligence Group. He was the highest-ranking Syrian inside ISIS and was thought to be a potential successor to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi if Baghdadi were to be killed.

“When calling for lone wolf attacks in [the] West, ISIS fighters/supporters quote Adnani more than any other individual,” Katz tweeted.

The Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, earlier this year — during which a man killed more than 80 people after he drove a truck into a crowd — seemed possibly inspired by an Adnani statement from 2014 that called on supporters to kill “infidels” wherever they can.

“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies,” Adnani said. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

In an in-depth report published earlier this month, The New York Times described Adnani’s role within ISIS. Aside from being the group’s spokesman, he reportedly oversaw a complex and extensive network of secret operatives dispatched to Europe to conduct attacks on targets in the West.

Adnani, who was born in Syria, had been with ISIS since its earliest days. He went to Syria on behalf of the group in 2012, before ISIS seized territory across the Middle East and declared its “caliphate.”

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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