A U.S. coalition airstrike killed the Islamic State's second-in-command, Abu Ala Al Afri, Iraq's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal reports that the strike targeted a meeting of the group's leaders at a mosque in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
Speaking at a Pentagon briefing, Colonel Steve Warren told reporters: "We have seen those reports. We've seen the statement from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.'' But, he said, "We do not have anything to independently confirm those reports.''
U.S. Central Command also released a statement on Wednesday afternoon that cast further doubt on the earlier reports. It reads in full:
We are aware of media reports that the second-in-command of ISIL has been killed in a Coalition air strike in Tal Afar and have no information to corroborate these claims. However, we can confirm that Coalition aircraft did not strike a mosque as some of the press reporting has alleged.
We have significant mitigation measures in place within the targeting process and during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties.