Islamic State’s chief cleric killed in airstrike in Syria

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Turki al-Bin’ali, the Grand Mufti or chief cleric of the Islamic State group (ISIS), was killed in an airstrike in Syria last month, the U.S.-led coalition said on Tuesday. It marks one of the most high-profile killings yet.

A brief statement from the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) said al-Bin’ali was killed on May 31 when the coalition carried out an airstrike in Mayadin, a city in eastern Syria which is currently occupied by the Islamic State.

“Al-Bin’ali had a central role in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and provoking terrorist attacks around the world,” CJTF said. “He provided propaganda to incite murder and other atrocities, attempted to legitimize the creation of the ‘caliphate,’ and was a close confidant of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Appointed as Grand Mufti in November 2014, some had considered the Bahrain-born cleric a possible successor for al-Bahgadi, the group’s leader. Al-Bin’ali was known for having issued a number of religious opinions for ISIS, including one that justified raping and enslaving women from the minority Yazidi community.

According to the United Nations Secretary Council, al-Bin’ali also provided literature for ISIS training camps and was closely involved in settling disputes within the group. He further served as the head of the group’s religious compliance police and recruited foreign fighters.

Al-Bin’ali also provided critical support in the period leading up to the group’s declaration of a “caliphate” in June 2014. Among other things, he authored a call for Muslims to pledge loyalty to al-Baghdadi, a biography that defended al-Baghdadi’s qualifications to be their “caliph,” and legal arguments and scriptural evidence to justify a caliphate.

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