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Senior IS commander in Iraq killed in air strike: US spokesman

Abu Wahib, who led IS forces in Anbar, had previously featured in numerous propaganda videos by the group
Abu Wahib standing next to burning cars at an undisclosed location in Iraq (AFP)

The US has confirmed the death of an iconic Islamic State fighter in an air strike in Iraq last week.

Abu Wahib, the chief IS military commander in Anbar province, was killed in a US strike on 6 May along with three other IS militants, the US announced on Monday evening.

Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said that the death of Wahib was a major blow for IS in Anbar province and would impede the group’s activities in the country.

"ISIL leadership has been hit hard by coalition efforts and this is another example of that," Cook told reporters. "It is dangerous to be an ISIL leader in Iraq and Syria these days, and for good reason."

Abu Wahib, a former member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, has been frequently featured in IS propaganda and quickly became one of the group’s most recognisable members.

Wahib started working with al-Qaida in Iraq prior to being detained by US forces in 2009.

After the US withdrawal in 2011 he was transferred to an Iraqi prison and broke out in 2012.

In spite of his reputation, he has also been a figure of ridicule for IS opponents, particularly over a picture circulated on social media by the anti-IS group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently comparing his military fatigues to a rotisserie kebab machine:

The news of his death, which has been announced before on a number of occasions but never confirmed, was welcomed by many on social media, often with kebab-related puns:

The killing of Wahib is the latest in a series of attacks on senior IS leaders in Iraq and Syria, where the group still controls huge tracts of land despite an intense US-led air campaign dating back to August 2014.

Some other recent targets include Suleiman Abd Shabib al-Jabouri, an "IS war council member," Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, the IS group's second-in-command also known as Haji Imam, and Omar al-Shishani, the man known as "Omar the Chechen," who was effectively IS's defence minister.

In February, US special operations forces captured Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar, also known as Abu Dawud, who was described as a chemical weapons expert.

"Since the start of 2015, we've targeted and killed more than 40 high-value ISIL and Al-Qaeda external attack plotters. We have removed cell leaders, facilitators, planners and recruiters," Baghdad-based military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren wrote online last week, using an alternative acronym for IS.

Despite many significant coalition gains against the IS group, it still control the key cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, and assaults to recapture the towns are not expected for months.

The White House on Monday said that Barack Obama will meet with his National Security Council on Tuesday morning to discuss US efforts to fight IS.

“The session is the latest in a series of NSC meetings in recent months convened at the White House and at key departments and agencies, including the CIA, the Department of State and the Department of Defense, on our campaign against the terrorist group,” it said in a statement.

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