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US says top IS group commander killed

Handout / US Department of State / AFP | A photo from the Department of State's Rewards For Justice Program shows senior Islamic State group commander Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Haji Iman.

The Islamic State (IS) group’s top finance officer and other senior leaders were likely killed this week in a major offensive targeting the militant group’s financial operation, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday.

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Carter said the United States believes it killed Haji Iman, a senior IS group leader in charge of the group’s finances as well as some plots and external affairs.

“We are systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” Carter told reporters at a briefing at the Pentagon, using an acronym to refer to the group.

NBC news reported that Haji Iman, who also went by Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli and other aliases, had been killed in a US air strike in Syria, citing defence officials.

But Carter declined to say where the attack took place, not whether Haji Iman was killed in a bombing raid involving manned aircraft or a drone strike.

The US Justice Department had offered a bounty of up to $7 million for information leading to Haji Iman.

"A few months ago when I said we were going to go after ISIL's financial infrastructure, we started with storage sites, and now we've taken out the leader who oversees their finances, hurting their ability to pay and hire recruits," Carter said.

"Our campaign plan is first and foremost to collapse ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria."

He said he was not aware of any link between Haji Imam and this week's terrorist attack in Brussels.

‘Senior, experienced leaders’

Carter also confirmed the likely killing earlier in the month of Omar al-Shishani, the man known as "Omar the Chechen," who was effectively the IS group’s defence minister.

Asked about the impact of these killings, Carter said, "Leaders can be replaced. However, these leaders have been around for a long time. They are senior, they are experienced."

The operations came as US officials said they were helping Iraqis prepare for a major operation in Mosul to take back territory from the IS group, which aims to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

US Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon expects increased capabilities will be provided to Iraqis in preparation for Mosul operations in the coming months.

Haji Iman was born in the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to Iraqi security sources. He was in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

He joined al Qaeda in 2004, and became a deputy to the group’s feared chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006 by an American drone strike.

Haji Iman was captured and imprisoned, but rejoined the IS group in Syria after he was freed in 2012.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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