Two senior ISIL leaders have been killed by airstrikes in Syria, inflicting a major blow to the extremist group’s ability to engineer weapons.
Abu Anas al-Shami and Junaid ur Rehman, both weapons experts, died during US-led coalition airstrikes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Combined Joint Task Force announced on Thursday.
Al-Shami, a weapons research leader, who led ISIL’s attempts to procure explosives and devise plans to use bombs for terror attacks outside of Syria, died near the city of Mayadin after an airstrike.
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"He also oversaw the building of improvised explosives to rig corpses, vehicles and buildings to try and help ISIS cling to strongholds they are losing in Iraq and Syria," coalition spokesman Col Ryan Dillon told reporters at the Pentagon.
While Rehman, who was a drone pilot and engineer, was killed in the village of al-Ashara, south of Mayadin. According to the coalition, he was an experienced engineer who was aiding ISIL’s ability to plot attack across the globe through weaponizing drones and conducting aerial surveillance on the battlefield.
The news of the deaths comes one week after a top US commander said he believed that ISIL chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was probably "still alive" and likely hiding in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, despite earlier reports of his death.
In June, Russian officials said there was a “high probability” Al Baghdadi had died during a Russian airstrike outside of Raqqa a month earlier.
Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, who commands the coalition forces fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria, admitted he did not know where exactly Al Baghdadi was but said the coalition would find him and kill him.
"The last stand of ISIL will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley," he said.
"When we find him, I think we'll just try to kill him first. It's probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him."