The second-in-command of the Islamic State terror group has reportedly been killed in a US-led air strike in northern Iraq, according to the country’s defence ministry.
Abu Alaa al-Afri, a trusted deputy of Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was reportedly inside a mosque in Tal Afar when he was hit, the BBC notes.
Baghdadi was reportedly seriously wounded in an air strike last month and has been out of commission since then. He’s reportedly unable to move as he recovers from a spinal injury.
Afri had reportedly been installed as the Islamic State’s temporary leader after Baghdadi’s injury.
The report of his death comes shortly after the news that Afri gave a speech during Friday prayers at the same Mosul mosque Baghdadi appeared at when he declared himself caliph, or leader, of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh).
Dozens of other ISIS militants were also killed in the strike that took out Baghdadi, according to the BBC.
US officials have not confirmed the reports.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon denied that Baghdadi was injured. Reports in The Guardian and Newsweek citing Iraqi officials who said Afri had taken over as temporary leader also have not been confirmed by the US.
An Iraqi government adviser who spoke to Newsweek said that Afri had become even more important than Baghdadi and described him as “a good public speaker” who has “strong charisma,” good leadership capabilities, and “much jihadi wisdom.”
He’s reportedly a former physics teacher and follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri, a prominent jihadi scholar.
During his speech on Friday, Afri reportedly sought to assure ISIS followers during turbulent times for the terror organisation.
A US-led coalition has been bombing ISIS positions in Iraq since August.
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