Pentagon: 'No information' to support Russia's claim it struck ISIS leader

Pentagon: 'No information' to support Russia's claim it struck ISIS leader
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The Pentagon said Wednesday it had "no information" to support Russia's claim that it was responsible for an airstrike that reportedly killed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani.

"We have no information to support Russia's claim that they also carried out a strike against Adnani," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

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"I'm not going to wager a guess as to why they might have a motive to engage in this and to discuss this, and maybe it's just a misunderstanding on their part," he said.

ISIS's news service, Amaq, first announced that an airstrike had killed al-Adnani in Aleppo on Tuesday afternoon. The Pentagon later confirmed that coalition forces had targeted al-Adnani in an airstrike in Al-Bab, a Syrian city in the Aleppo governorate. 

On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry released a statement on its Facebook page that took credit for the strike. 

"On August 30, 2016, the strike of a Russian bomber #Su34 carried out near the Maaratat-Um-Haush (#Aleppo province) has eliminated a large concentration of #ISIS militants (up to 40 people)," it said. 

"Among those terrorists, according to the information confirmed through several intelligence channels, there was the military leader Abu Mohammad al-Adnani known as the Spokesperson of the international terrorist organization the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,' " it said. 

Cook would not explicitly rule out the possibility but said Russia "has spent most of its time, its military campaign, supporting and propping up the [President Bashar] Assad regime." 

"It has not devoted much, if any, effort that we're aware of targeting ISIL's leadership. And at the same time, we have not seen the Russian military campaign use precision weaponry on a regular basis as well," he said, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. "If that's changing, that would be a good thing." 

Russia began an air campaign in Syria last September to shore up ally Assad in his civil war against anti-regime rebels and ISIS. However, U.S. officials say Russia has mostly struck rebels, including those who are backed by the West. 

Cook said the U.S. is still assessing the results of the strike against al-Adnani and noted that the U.S. has been looking for him for some time. 

"Al-Adnani, has served as principal architect of ISIL's external operations and as ISIL's chief spokesman. He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members," he said. 

— Nikita Vladimirov contributed to this report.