The Syrian army said on Wednesday it had killed ISIS military commander in Syria during operations in the north of the country, where the Russian-backed government forces are seizing more territory back from the militant group.
If confirmed, this would represent a major blow against ISIS ahead of an attack which the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters – are expected to launch against the militant in their stronghold of Raqqa city.
A Syrian military source told Reuters the ISIS commander, Abu Musab al-Masri, had been the group’s “minister of war” for Syria. Syrian state media had earlier cited a military source as saying he was the organization’s “minister of war”, suggesting he was the overall ISIS military commander.
He was named among 13 senior ISIS figures killed in Syrian army operations east of Aleppo, including men identified as Saudi and Iraqi nationals, according to the military source cited by state media.
Al-Masri was killed in the operations that got underway on May 10. The military source did not say where he was killed.
Baghdad-based ISIS expert Hisham al-Hashimi said the death of Masri, if confirmed, would be a “significant blow to the group ahead of the battle of Raqqa”. He said al-Masri was the fourth most senior figure in the organization.
A previous ISIS minister of war, Abu Omar al-Shishani, was killed last year. The Pentagon said Shishani was likely to have been killed in a US air strike in Syria. The militant group confirmed his death in July but said he had died fighting in the Iraqi city of Shirqat south of Mosul.