U.S. denies reports it killed deputy head of ISIL in Iraq
THE United States (U.S.) military has denied claims by Iraq’s government that a coalition air strike hit a mosque where the deputy commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group had been meeting with other fighters in the north of the country.
Iraq’s defence ministry said an air strike by the U.S-led coalition had killed Abu Alaa al-Afari and others who were in a meeting inside a mosque in the city of Tal Afar.
While the coalition confirmed it had conducted an air strike there in the last 24 hours, U.S. officials said they had no information to corroborate claims Afari had been killed.
Meanwhile in Syria, ISIL has seized more territory in the central province of Homs amid intense clashes with government forces, Syrian activists say.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday’s fighting killed at least 28 government troops and about 20 fighters from the ISIL. It said hundreds more were wounded.
ISIL has a presence in the eastern countryside of Homs and has been pushing west.
Twitter accounts affiliated with ISIL say its fighters reported advances northwest of the city of Palmyra, the AP news agency reported.
Bebars al-Talawy, an activist based in Homs, said ISIL seized a large government ammunition warehouse outside Palmyra and was bombing a nearby government-controlled airport.
The reports of ISIL’s advances could not be independently confirmed.
ISIL has continued to make gains in Syria despite loss of territory in neighbouring Iraq under aerial bombardment by the U.S-led coalition.
Fighters from the group seized large parts of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus in April.