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Key Islamic State leader killed, group says

Zeina Karam
Associated Press

Beirut — The Islamic State group’s spokesman and chief strategist, who laid out the blueprint for the extremist group’s attacks against the West, has been killed while overseeing operations in northern Syria, the group announced Tuesday.

The IS-run Aamaq news agency said Abu Muhammed al-Adnani was “martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns in Aleppo,” and vowed to avenge his death. It did not provide any further details on when or how he died.

If confirmed, it would be a major blow to the extremist group, which has been on the retreat in Syria and Iraq, where the borders of its self-declared Islamic caliphate have been steadily eroded in recent months.

Al-Adnani, whose real name is Taha Sobhi Falaha, persistently called for attacks against the West, which paid off in bloody notoriety with the Nov. 13 coordinated attacks in Paris that hit a concert hall, a stadium and restaurants and bars, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Al-Adnani is a Syrian who was born in the northern province of Idlib and is believed to be in his late 30s. He crossed the border and joined al-Qaida in Iraq, a precursor to IS, after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

In late June 2014, he formally declared the establishment of a caliphate, or Islamic state, stretching across parts of Syria and Iraq.

A powerful orator, he went on to become the voice of IS. He released numerous, lengthy audio files online in which he delivered fiery sermons urging followers to kill civilians in nations that supported the U.S.-led coalition against the group.

Followers of IS carried out attacks on several continents, including the Orlando shooting, the Nice truck attack in France and a massive suicide bombing in downtown Baghdad.