A U.S. special operations team killed the Islamic State’s second-in-command in a pre-dawn raid early Thursday morning inside Syria, senior defense officials said Friday as Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the U.S. has taken out several key terrorists in recent days.
“We are systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” Carter said.
Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Abu Ala al-Afri, had a $7 million bounty on his head by the U.S. government.
Carter, speaking alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., confirmed the death at a press conference Friday without going into the details of the operation.
Carter referred to the target by another nickname, Haji Imam, describing him as the ISIS finance minister. But the terror leader also was considered the man most likely to take over for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, if he were captured or killed.
“The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization’s ability to conduct operations both inside and outside of Iraq and Syria,” Carter said, describing the target as responsible for funding ISIS operations and involved in some external affairs and plots.
He said this was the second senior leader successfully targeted this month, in addition to the group’s “minister of war” Omar al-Shishani, or “Omar the Chechen,” killed in a recent U.S. airstrike.
A U.S. official told Fox News that the Brussels terror attack earlier this week prompted the raid in Syria.
Al-Afri is a former physics professor from Iraq who originally joined Al Qaeda in 2004. After spending time in an Iraqi prison, he was released in 2012 and traveled to Syria to join up with what is now ISIS.
On May 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated him as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” for his role with ISIS.
The announcement comes as Secretary of State John Kerry meets with allies in Brussels, the site of the deadly terror attack earlier this week, for which ISIS claimed responsibility. It was confirmed that at least two Americans were killed in those twin bombings.