The Pentagon said Friday coalition airstrikes killed two major ISIS operatives in Mosul, including a "deputy minister of war" suspected of organizing mustard gas attacks and masterminding the terror group's takeover of the northwestern Iraqi city in 2014.
The precision airstrikes on June 25 killed Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, the deputy minister of war for ISIS, and Hatim Talib al-Hamduni, another military commander in Mosul, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
"These deaths are the latest in coalition efforts to systematically eliminate ISIL's cabinet wherever they hide, disrupting their ability to plot external terror attacks and hold onto the territory they use to claim legitimacy," Cook said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
"Al-Bajari was an experienced terrorist, a former member of al-Qaida who brought his military skills into ISIL's terrorist network. He oversaw ISIL's June 2014 offensive to capture Mosul" as the Iraqi Security Forces fled and abandoned their equipment, "and has also led the ISIL Jaysh al-Dabiq battalion known for using vehicle-borne IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), suicide bombers and mustard gas in its attacks, Cook said.
Hatim Talib al-Hamduni was an ISIL military commander in Mosul and the head of military police for the self-proclaimed Nineweh state in the area surrounding Mosul.
The Mosul strikes were an additional sign of progress in the effort to inflict a lasting defeat on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Cook said. He noted that in recent days the coalition "has freed Fallujah from ISIL's grip; launched devastating strikes against ISIL forces fleeing that city; completed the encirclement of Manbij, a key node in the flow of foreign fighters between Syria and Turkey; and started to clear key terrain south of Mosul of ISIL forces."
However, top military and intelligence officials, including CIA Director John Brennan, have also warned in recent days that ISIS was a resilient organization that will remain a significant threat to the U.S. and the West beyond its battlefield defeat. Brennan told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ISIS will retain the ability to counterattack in Iraq and Syria while inspiring or directing terror attacks worldwide.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.