US identifies Islamic State propagandists killed in airstrikes

The US military released a statement today naming seven senior Islamic State “propagandists and facilitators” killed in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria this year. At least six of the seven were involved in creating propaganda and media for the so-called caliphate. Three of them perished in bombings near or in Mayadin, Syria, which has become a hub for the so-called caliphate’s leadership as the group loses ground elsewhere.

Among those killed near Mayadin was Rayaan Meshaal (pictured on the right), who was the “head and founder” of the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency. Amaq has been one of the group’s most important propaganda arms, collecting and disseminating news from jihadi hotspots around the globe. Meshaal’s media outfit packages videos, images and statements with a common branding, thereby emphasizing the idea that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists are fighting for the same cause everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia.

Amaq has also played a central role in claiming responsibility for attacks carried out by Islamic State members and supporters in the West. One Amaq improvisation proved to be remarkably effective. Jihadists in the West began to record videos of themselves swearing allegiance to Baghdadi before their day of terror. In some cases, it was later revealed, the terrorists had received online guidance from operatives overseas. Amaq promoted these “remote-controlled” plots, as well as others carried out in the Islamic State’s name, including attacks inside the US.

Meshaal was killed in an airstrike between May 25 and 27, according to CENTCOM. Meshaal’s death was first reported on Twitter by journalist Jenan Moussa, who said that his daughter was also killed in the airstrike.

The US says that two others also met their demise in Mayadin. Abu Ali al-Janubi, a “senior media director,” was killed on Apr. 16.

And Bassam al-Jayfus, “who handled ISIS funds for terror attacks,” was struck down on July 18. Al-Jayfus was apparently involved in the Islamic State’s “external operations” – that is, plots in the West and elsewhere outside of the lands of the self-declared caliphate. CENTCOM says his “death causes a disruption to ISIS’s multi-national money laundering network, which is used to pay for foreign terrorist fighters as well as terror plotting and attacks throughout the world.”

The US-led coalition previously announced the deaths of several senior Islamic State figures in or around Mayadin, which is located in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. Some of them were also reportedly involved in the Islamic State’s external operations. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Key Islamic State ‘finance emir’ killed in eastern Syria, US says.]

The other four senior Islamic State figures identified by CENTCOM were all killed in Iraq between March and early July. Abu Sulayman al-Iraqi was a “senior ISIS propaganda official” who “provided strategic guidance and production oversight for ISIS propaganda that recruited, indoctrinated and directed terrorists around the world.” Al-Iraqi was killed in an airstrike near Mosul earlier this month.

Both Abu-Khattab al-Rawi and Abu-Sayf al-‘Isawi served as “ISIS media emir[s]” and were killed in Ba’aj and al-Qa’im, Iraq, respectively. CENTCOM announced al-Rawi’s death earlier this year, saying he was “a senior ISIS military official” who “was responsible for coordinating UAV operations and procurement in Al Anbar Province” and “provided direct support to ISIS leadership.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, CENTCOM: Three senior Islamic State foreign fighters killed.]

The final jihadist identified in today’s release is Ibrahim al-Ansari. He, too, was previously identified by the US military as a casualty of the coalition’s airstrikes. The US said on Mar. 31 that al-Ansari, who was killed on Mar. 25 in al-Qa’im, Iraq, was responsible for “the brainwashing of young children,” among other duties. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State propagandist was ‘brainwashing’ children, US military says.]

“The removal of these key ISIS leaders disrupts ISIS’s propaganda production, distribution, and the ability to fund ISIS’ terrorist activities,” CENTCOM said in its statement. CENTCOM described all seven as “senior leaders and facilitators with extensive experience and training,” arguing that their deaths degrade “ISIS’s ability to plan and conduct attacks on civilian targets in Iraq and Syria, as well throughout the region and in the West.”

Six of the seven announced airstrikes took place near the Iraqi-Syrian border, an indication that the Islamic State’s strongholds have relocated as the jihadists retreated from Mosul and Raqqa.

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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