US-led airstrikes kill IS leaders linked to Paris attacks

According to the Pentagon, an Islamic State leader who was believed to have “direct” ties to the professed mastermind of the Paris attacks was among 10 senior figures of the militant group killed in Syria and Iraq this month. US-led airstrikes killed the French jihadi based in Syria who was linked to the chief planner of November’s Islamic State atrocities in Paris and was “actively planning” new attacks.

“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,” said U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military campaign against Daesh, also known by the acronym ISIL.

“One of those killed was Abdul Qader Hakim, who facilitated the militants’ external operations and had links to the Paris attack network,” Warren said.

Hakim was killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Dec. 26. A coalition airstrike on December 24 in Syria killed Charaffe al Mouadan, a Syria-based Daesh member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris on Nov. 13 which killed 130 people, Warren said.

The effect of the airstrikes on Daesh leadership can be seen in recent battlefield successes against the group, Warren said.

The Iraqi army recently saw its first major victory against the ultra-hardline militants, declaring the capture this week of Ramadi, a provincial capital west of Baghdad which fell to Daesh in May.

“Part of those successes is attributable to the fact that the organization is losing its leadership,” Warren said. He warned, however: “It’s still got fangs.”

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“We’re striking at the head of this snake. We haven’t severed the head of the snake yet, and it’s still got fangs. We have to be clear about that. There’s much more fighting to do.”

Warren is the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led military operation against ISIS.

Ten mid-level ISIS leaders are reported to have been killed in airstrikes on Syria and Iraq over the past month, Warren said, including a U.K.-educated man who led some of ISIS’s computer hacking programs. Siful Haque Sujan, a Bangladeshi, died in an airstrike near Raqqa in Syria on Dec. 10.

“Sujan was an external operations planner who was educated as a computer systems engineer in the United Kingdom,” he said. “He supported ISIL’s hacking efforts, their anti-surveillance technology and their weapons development. Now that he’s dead, ISIL has lost a key link between their networks.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said ISIS’s violence against Iraqi Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East was genocide.

“I think I was asked this a couple months ago, and I said that term carries with it legal import, it is a very important concept and label for behavior that deserves that name,” Clinton said in response to a question at a meeting in Berlin, New Hampshire.

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