Ayad al-Jumaili, believed to be a deputy of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in an airstrike, an Iraqi intelligence spokesman has said.
The US-led anti-Isis coalition said it was unable on Friday evening to confirm the information that was reported earlier in the day by Iraqi state-run TV.
Jumaili was killed along with other Isis commanders in a strike by the Iraqi air force in the region of al-Qaim, near the border with Syria, a military intelligence spokesman told Reuters.
“The air force’s planes executed with accuracy a strike on the headquarters of [Isis] in al-Qaim … resulting in the killing of [Isis’s] second-in-command … Ayad al-Jumaili,” state TV said earlier, citing a statement from the directorate of military intelligence.
Iraqi and US-led forces have been battling since October to retake the city of Mosul, Isis’s last major stronghold in Iraq and the city where Baghdadi declared a caliphate nearly three years ago. Nearly 290,000 people have fled the city to escape the fighting, according to the United Nations.
US and Iraqi officials believe Baghdadi has left operational commanders with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert with senior commanders. A separate battle is in preparation in Syria to drive Islamic State from its stronghold there, the city of Raqqa.
Jumaili served as an intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president toppled in the 2003 invasion. He led Isis’s top security agency in Iraq and Syria, known as Amniya, answering directly to Baghdadi, according to experts.