US-led coalition targets Islamic State’s ‘external attack planners’ in airstrikes

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A senior Islamic State “external attack planner” in Syria had ties to members of the terrorist cell responsible for the Nov. 13 massacre in Paris, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is pictured here.

The US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria has targeted several members of the Islamic State’s external operations arm in recent weeks, according to a US military spokesman who briefed reporters earlier today. The jihadists were allegedly plotting new attacks in the West.

“Over the past month we’ve killed 10 ISIL leadership figures with targeted airstrikes, including several external attack planners, some of whom are linked to the Paris attacks,” US Army Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), said according to Reuters. (The US military uses the acronym ISIL, as in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, when discussing the Islamic State.) According to Warren, some of these leaders “had designs on further attacking the West.”

Warren named the “external attack planners” who are believed to be dead. One of them is Charaffe al Mouadan, who was struck down on Dec. 24.

Al Mouadan was a “Syrian-based leader with a direct link” to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who has been identified as the “Paris attack cell leader.”

Abaaoud is a notorious Islamic State fighter who was featured in the group’s propaganda months prior to the terrorist assault on Paris, which left 130 people dead and many more wounded. [See LWJ report, Key suspect in Paris attacks has been featured in Islamic State propaganda.]

Abbaoud was killed during a French counterterrorism raid on Nov. 18, after being identified as one of the prime suspects.

“Al Mouadan was actively planning attacks against the [W]est,” according to Warren, who vowed that “as long as ISIL external attack planners are operating,” the US Military “will hunt them and kill them.”

Investigators have reportedly found ties between Al Mouadan and other members of the Paris terrorist cell as well. According to VICE News, authorities identified Al Mouadan as a suspect after they heard one of the attackers at the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people were killed, mention someone named “Souleymane.”

French officials identified “Souleymane” as Al Mouadan, who was friends with one of the Bataclan gunmen, Samy Amimour. MetroNews first reported that Amimour and Al Mouadan were “childhood friends” and, along with a third man, charged in October 2012 with “conspiracy to prepare acts of terrorism.” Al Mouadan and Amimour initially wanted to “wage jihad in Yemen or Afghanistan,” but that plan apparently fell through.

Amimour and Al Mouadan made their way to Syria in 2013. Amimour returned to France sometime before the terrorist operation on Nov. 13 and blew himself up at the Bataclan.

Abdul Qader Hakim, who was killed in an airstrike in Mosul on Dec. 26, “was a veteran fighter and forgery specialist who had links to the Paris attack network, who also was part of ISIL’s external operations group who enabled attacks against Western targets,” according to the Defense Department’s summary of Warren’s briefing. “His death removes an important facilitator with many connections in Europe,” Warren said.

Three other jihadists who were recently bombed also served in the Islamic State’s external operations wing.

Tashin al Hayali, killed near Mosul on Dec. 27, was “an external operations facilitator.” Another “external operations facilitator,” Rawand Dilsher Taher, “was a trusted ISIL member who assisted with command and control and handling and transferring money and equipment.” Taher was killed near Raqqa on Dec. 7. And a “Syria-based” Bangladeshi named Siful Haque Sujan was also struck down near Raqqa on Dec. 10. Sujan “was an external operations planner and a United Kingdom-educated computer systems engineer,” according to the Defense Department’s summary. Sujan “supported ISIL hacking efforts, anti-surveillance technology and weapons development.”

“Now that he’s [Sujan] dead, ISIL has lost a key link between networks,” Warren claimed.

French President François Hollande has said that the massacre in Paris was “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, [and] perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” Assuming the details offered by Warren are accurate, then it appears that Hollande was right about the terrorists receiving assistance from operatives located in Syria.

In addition to the five jihadists in the Islamic State’s external operations arm, Warren identified five other Islamic State leaders who were successfully targeted this month.

Khalil Ahmad Ali al Wais (also known as Abu Wadhah) was the Islamic State’s emir for the Kirkuk province in Iraq and “had a long history of targeting US and Iraqi forces.” Wadhah was killed near Huwayjah, Iraq on Dec. 7. Abu Anas (an Islamic State “bomb cell facilitator”), Yunis Khalash (also known as Abu Jawdat, who was the Islamic State’s “deputy financial emir in Mosul”), Mithaq Najim (the “deputy emir in Kirkuk province”) and Akram Muhammad Sa’ad Faris (an Islamic State “commander and executioner”) were all killed between Dec. 8 and Dec. 12.

*Note: This article was updated with additional details on Dec. 30.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Verneoz says:

    This story exemplifies the need to have all tools in the tool box on the table and approved for use as required…including tactical nuclear weapons. Terrorist radicals thoroughly understand overwhelming firepower. All this babble about negotiating and ceasefires to these barbarians is considered a sign of weakness. The Jap fanatics got this message Lima Charlie in WWII.

  • Dennis says:

    May they all burn in hell, without all those “virgins” they thought would just jump all over them.

  • Driss says:

    Why ISIS dont Attack Iran and Israel?

  • Dan says:

    Some of these guys will resurface. It’s easy for the Pentagon to claim something that is almost impossible to qualify. And while some jihadist sites have eulogised one of these targets, nothing has been said about the others.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hope they’re dead and it took them hours to die; but the track-record of US statements being factual is abysmal, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one has its (many) holes.

    Of interest, they were allegedly taken out following the attacks in Paris. Why did the “coalition” wait until after that event? It’s farcical to believe the US doesn’t know where all these guys are – including Baghdadi. It just smells.


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