The Pentagon strongly pushed back Wednesday on Russian claiming it was responsible for killing Islamic State’s chief spokesman in Syria.
ISIS released a statement Tuesday saying its lead spokesman, Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, was killed near Aleppo, Syria. The Pentagon confirmed it carried out airstrikes in Aleppo targeting Adnani, but has not independently confirmed Adnani’s death.
Russia seized on the Pentagon’s remarks to try and claim credit for the airstrike. Russian State run media released a statement hours after ISIS’s announcement, saying, “According to reports confirmed by several intelligence channels, field commander Abu Mukhammad al-Adnani [sic], better known as ‘the official spokesperson’ of the international terrorist group Islamic State, was among the liquidated terrorists,” in a Russian air raid that day.
Russia made its claim despite acknowledging its airstrikes were carried out nearly 20 miles away from the area of Aleppo where Adnani was killed. Russia is likely trying to advance its narrative that the mission in Syria is to help Syrian President Bashar Al Assad go after terrorists. Throughout its nearly one-year military intervention in Syria, Russia has labeled any group that opposes Assad as “terrorist,” regardless of religious affiliation.
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook took a swipe at Russian airstrikes in Syria to reporters Wednesday, saying, “we have no information to support Russia’s claim that they also carried out a strike against Adnani.” Cook elaborated, “Russia, as you know, has spent most of its time, its military campaign supporting and propping up the Assad regime,” continuing “It has not devoted much, if any, effort that we’re aware of targeting ISIL’s leadership.”
Another senior defense official told Reuters Wednesday, “Russia’s claim is a joke.”
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