Two senior Islamic State (Isis), or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), military commanders were killed during the 25 June air strikes near Mosul, Iraq. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the aerial attacks by the US-led coalition forces killed Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, deputy minister of war for IS (Daesh), and Hatim Talib al-Hamduni, an IS military commander in Mosul.
The coalition forces recently succeeded in freeing Fallujah, an IS stronghold in Iraq, and have now started to clear the militants from the key terrain south of Mosul, Cook said in a statement released on Friday (1 July). The coalition forces, along with "local, capable, and motivated forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria" are reportedly trying to seize every opportunity to strike the militants out of Iraq and Syria.
The Pentagon spokesman said that the 25 June air strike was targeted against the two experienced IS military commanders as part of their efforts "to systemically eliminate [Isis] cabinet wherever they hide, disrupting their ability to plot external terror attacks and hold onto the territory they use to claim legitimacy". Al-Bajari was a former member of the militant group al-Qaeda and oversaw the jihadi group's June 2014 offensive to capture Mosul. Al-Hamduni was the head of military police for self-proclaimed Ninawa state in Iraq.
Cook said that al-Bajari has also led the ISIL Jaysh al-Dabiq battalion known for using vehicle-borne IEDs, suicide bombers and mustard gas in its attacks. Consistent airstrikes and the deaths of these senior militant leaders in the past month have "critically degraded" the terror group's leadership experience in Mosul, Cook said, adding that the battlefield environment has now become conducive for Iraqi forces to free Mosul of these militants. "Because of our strategy and our determination to accelerate our campaign, momentum is now on our side and not on ISIL's," Cook noted.