Reports: US Airstrike Kills 3 Top ISIS Militants

Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 03:01 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Three top Islamic State (ISIS) members, including an aide to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were killed Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, according to news reports based on information from senior Baghdad security officials.

Abu Hajar al-Sufi, an aide to Baghdadi, died in the strike in Mosul, NBC News reported Thursday. The others killed were an explosives operative and the military leader of nearby Tel Afar, the Iraqi official said.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry official spoke on the condition of anonymity, NBC reports.

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Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, could not confirm the deaths — telling NBC only that ISIS leaders had not been targeted in the strike.

"If there are leaders inside of ISIL troop formations that have been attacked, then they will likely be killed," Warren said, using the government-preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

U.S. airstrikes have been directed against troop concentrations threatening specific areas in the north, including the Mosul dam and the Kurdish capital of Irbil, Stars and Stripes reports.

The Daily Beast reported that Baghdadi himself had been killed, based on reports in Turkish and Kurdish media on Wednesday.

That is not true, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said.

"There is no validity to the rumor that we've killed Baghdadi," the official told the Daily Beast.

The United States resumed airstrikes on Iraq in August after the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained ground in its quest to establish a caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

The terrorist group has beheaded two American journalists in recent weeks, James Foley, 40, of Rochester, N.H., and Steven Sotloff, 31, of Miami.

ISIS posted their executions in videos on the Internet.

News of Sufi's death comes a day after Human Rights Watch said that ISIS killed between 560 and 770 Iraqi soldiers near the city of Tikrit.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that the Islamic State overtook Camp Speicher, located north of Baghdad, in June. Thereafter "horrific abuses" occurred at the hands of ISIS on a scale that "clearly rises to the crimes against humanity," the watchdog group said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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