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U.S.: Islamic State's Deputy Leader Killed In Airstrike

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

The second-in-command of the self-declared Islamic State was killed earlier this week during a U.S. airstrike, the White House has confirmed.

"Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz ... was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an ISIL media operative known as Abu Abdullah," White House spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"Al-Hayali was an ISIL Shura Council member and, as the senior deputy to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was a primary coordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives, vehicles, and people between Iraq and Syria," Price said, referring to the Islamic State by an acronym.

Price added that Hayali's death would have a negative impact on the extremist group's operations, as his charge extended to the finance, media, operations and logistics wings of ISIS.

However, Reuters quotes Seth Jones, a former Pentagon official who now works for the Rand Corp., as saying: "My experience in looking at the Islamic State suggests they have demonstrated an ability to move people up into positions" when high-ranking operatives are killed.

Even so, The Wall Street Journal quotes Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Center as saying that the U.S. "has dealt a severe blow to Islamic State's top leadership, taking out its most consistently senior deputy and a known operationally involved commander and strategist."

Although, he too conceded: "Ultimately, Islamic State is sufficiently well-led and structured that such a loss will not necessarily impact upon the organization's capacity to continue its pace of operations."

Also, as CNN notes:

"Several news organizations, including CNN, reported his death at the end of last year, based on information from senior U.S. administration officials.

"One U.S. official said it appears the United States had a wrong identification at that time."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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