WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An air strike by a U.S.-led coalition killed a senior Islamic State official in Iraq last week, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday.
The strike on May 6 killed Abu Wahib, Islamic State’s chief military official in Anbar province, said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. The strike was on a vehicle carrying Abu Wahib, also known as Shakir Wahib, and three other Islamic State members near the town of Rutba, Cook said.
Islamic State, a hardline Sunni Islamist group, seized large portions of Anbar province in 2014, though Iraqi security forces have since last year succeeded in winning back some towns there, including Ramadi and Hit.
The death of Abu Wahib, given his senior role in military planning in Anbar, will impede Islamic State’s ability to conduct operations in the western province, Cook said. The group is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“ISIL leadership has been hit hard by coalition efforts and this is another example of that,” Cook said. “It is dangerous to be an ISIL leader in Iraq and Syria these days, and for good reason.”
Abu Wahib had appeared in Islamic State execution videos and was a former member of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Cook said.
The U.S. military and allies have been conducting air strikes in Syria and Iraq since 2014 targeting Islamic State leaders and infrastructure in an effort to defeat the group.
Iraqi media have in the past year published reports of Abu Wahib’s death, though the Pentagon had never confirmed his death before.
Though U.S.-led air strikes have succeeded in taking out Islamic State members and some important leaders, the group is far from defeated. The group still controls much of its border-spanning “caliphate,” has inspired global affiliates and is able to orchestrate deadly external attacks like those that killed 32 people in Brussels on March 22.
Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Alistair Bell