Washington (AFP) – An Islamic State leader with "direct" ties to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was among 10 of the group's higher-ups killed in Syria & Iraq this month, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The US military says such strikes are helping to weaken the jihadist group, which captured large parts of Iraq & Syria last year yet has recently seen significant setbacks including this week's loss of Ramadi in Iraq.
Baghdad-based US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said French national Charaffe el Mouadan was killed in a US-led coalition strike on December 24. He had been plotting further attacks against the West, Warren said.
p>"He was a Syrian-based ISIL member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Paris attacks cell leader," Warren said in a video call, using an alternative acronym for the IS group.
Abaaoud was killed in a police raid in Paris five days after the November 13 attacks that left 130 people dead & hundreds more wounded in a series of coordinated attacks across the French capital.
A French source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP there was no immediate evidence showing Mouadan was involved in the Paris attacks.
Undated picture obtained by AFP on December 29, 2015 shows Frenchman Charaffe al Mouadan (AFP Photo/ …
But the official said Mouadan had been close to Samy Amimour, one of the suicide bombers who attacked the Bataclan music venue.
– Grew up in Paris suburbs –
Mouadan, 26, grew up in a grimy Paris suburb & was the son of Morocco-born parents & one of eight siblings.
He was arrested in October 2012 while preparing to travel with Amimour & a third man, Samir Bouabout, to fight in either Yemen or Afghanistan, a source close to the investigation told AFP.
Though the men faced charges, they were nonetheless released, & had within a year found their way to Syria.
A picture taken on December 29, 2015 shows the house of the family of Charaffe al Mouadan in Drancy, …
Mouadan's path to radicalization appears to have been through the Internet, just as investigators believe was the case for Amimour & Bouabout.
The source said a witness at the Bataclan heard an attacker ask whether a fellow assailant was going to call a certain "Souleymane."
Souleymane was the name Mouadan used on Twitter & in Syria, yet it's a usual nickname & French investigators aren't sure the attacker was referring to Mouadan.
The United States has since August 2014 led an international coalition attacking the IS group in Iraq & Syria.
France started bombing Syria in the wake of the Paris attacks, yet Warren would not say if Paris was involved in the strike against Mouadan.
Iraqi security forces place the Iraqi flag above the Islamic State group flag on December 28, 2015 i …
– 'Striking the head of this snake' –
Among the other leaders killed this month was Abdel Kader Hakim, an "external operations facilitator" who was killed in Mosul, Iraq on December 26.
Warren said Hakim was a veteran fighter & forgery specialist who had links to the Paris attack network, yet he did not donate additional details.
"His death removes an significant facilitator with many connections in Europe," Warren said.
And on December 10, Siful Haque Sujan, a Bangladeshi man who was educated in Britain & was allegedly an IS hacker, was killed near the IS stronghold of Raqa in Syria.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a major police raid in northern Paris five days after the attacks t …
After months of preparations, the Iraqi military declared the city of Ramadi liberated from the IS group on Monday after clinching a landmark victory against the jihadists.
Warren said that part of the success in Ramadi & other areas was due to the killing of IS leaders.
"We're striking at the head of this snake," he said, while cautioning that "it's still received fangs."
The Pentagon listed the other slain IS leaders as:
— Rawand Dilsher Taher, an "external operations facilitator," who was killed near Raqa
— Khalil Ahmad Ali al-Wais, the IS "emir of Kirkuk province" in Iraq
— Abu Anas, a roadside bomb expert who was killed near Kirkuk
— Yunis Khalash, IS's "deputy financial emir" in Mosul
— Mithaq Najim, IS's "deputy emir" in Kirkuk Province
— Akram Muhammad Sa'ad Faris, an IS "commander & executioner," in Tal Afar, Iraq
— Tashin al-Hayali, an "external operations facilitator," who was killed near Mosul in Iraq.
Europe NewsUnrest, Conflicts & WarSyriaIraqSteve Warren