While the US has frequently claimed to have liquidated an Islamic terrorist leader, Russia put in its first claim on Aug. 31, when the defense ministry in Moscow announced for the first time that the day before, an SU-34 bomber had killed ISIS senior terrorist mastermind Mohammed Al-Adnani during a high-profile gathering at Maaratat-Umm Khaush near Aleppo.
The claim was worded so as to indicate that Russian intelligence had pulled off a major feat by a hit that took out 40 high-profile operatives.
This claim came 24 hours after a US official said that a Predator drone rocket had hit a car believed to be carrying Adnani near Al-Bab, and that the results were “being assessed” – even though ISIS itself reported that the terrorist leader, tagged as senior spokesman, “was martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo.”
The Pentagon sources called the Russian version “lies” and “a joke.”
The distance between al-Bab and Maaratat-Umm Khaush is only 28km, but the gap between the American and Russian claims is less immeasurable.
Fighting has escalated around the city in recent weeks, with rebels breaking a siege by government forces and Syrian and Russian warplanes bombing rebel-held areas.
The competing Russian and American claims of a successful aerial-cum-intelligence action against a high-profile ISIS founder-member break new ground in the war on Islamic terror.
Al-Adnani, who was born in 1977 in the northern Syrian town of Banash, was responsible in the past two years for orchestrating terrorist atrocities in Tunisia, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Nice, Sinai Peninsula and Istanbul, as well as suicide bombings in Baghdad.
Far from being a joke, the cold war dividing Moscow and Washington appears to have spread to the war on Islamist terror and infected the Syrian arena.
The early collaboration between the two powers in the Syrian conflict has broken down. This was admitted on Aug. 26 in Geneva, after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to agree on further military and intelligence cooperation.
Ironically, it is noted by debkafile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources, that both powers’ clandestine services received intelligence on their target’s movements from the same source.
That is another first; never before has any Islamic terrorist organization fed the same piece of intelligence to the US and Russia. If that is what happened, it could mean only one thing: that someone in ISIS had decided it was time for Al-Adani to go.
This would be par for the course in the harsh world of jihadist terror organizations, such as Al Qaeda from which ISIS sprung.
When Osama bin Laden, whom US special forces killed in 2011, felt the need to cull the Al-Qaeda leadership of high-profile operatives who had outlived their usefulness or were suffering from fatigue, he would get rid of them by arranging for US intelligence to be tipped off about their whereabouts.
In one notable instance of this purge, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, senior planner of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, was turned in to the CIA in 2003.
If this is what happened to Al-Adani, debkafile’s counterterrorism sources link it to the recent reappearance on the Islamist terrorist scene in Syria three weeks ago of the veteran Al-Qaeda master-terrorist Saif al-Adel with a group of followers.
Al-Adel is rated one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, with long experience of planning and executing mass-casualty operations stretching back to the 1980s. He is “credited” with the large-scale assaults on the East African US embassies in 1998 and a string of murderous strikes in Saudi Arabia in 2003, some of which hit US targets.
It is not yet known how Al-Adel and his gang reached Syria and for what purpose. They are only known to have crossed the border from Iraq. It is presumed by intelligence watchers of terrorist insider politics that, after deciding that Al-Adnan was a spent asset, ISIS leaders found his replacement.