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Pentagon on Russia claims of killing terror rep: 'We don't trust' Moscow

"We are not going to be satisfied simply to trust ISIL and the Russians on this," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

By Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware
Pentagon on Russia claims of killing terror rep: 'We don't trust' Moscow
High-ranking Islamic State spokesman and plotter Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was killed in an airstrike near Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday -- prompting claims from both the United States and Russia that their respective operations were responsible for the leader's death. The Pentagon said Wednesday that "there is no information" to support Moscow's claim of credit. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. officials expressed serious doubt Wednesday about a claim from Russia's military that one of its bombers killed Islamic State spokesman and plotter Abu Muhammad al-Adnani near battle-torn Aleppo this week.

Moscow's defense ministry made the claim online Wednesday, saying al-Adnani was one of up to 40 Islamic State militants killed in the north Syria city by a Russian Su-34 bomber.

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"According to reports confirmed by several intelligence channels, field commander Abu Mukhammad al-Adnani, better known as 'the official spokesperson' of the international terrorist group Islamic State, was among the liquidated terrorists," Russia's government-owned TASS news agency reported Wednesday, citing defense ministry officials.

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The terror group announced al-Adnani's death via its official news service, Amaq, on Tuesday.

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The Pentagon, however, scoffed Wednesday at Moscow's claim of responsibility -- and pointed out that the Kremlin's taking credit for al-Adnani's death makes no strategic or logistical sense.

"We have no information to support Russia's claim that they carried out a strike against Adnani," U.S. Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook said during a Pentagon briefing. "From the start, Russia has spent most of its time in its military campaign propping up the [Bashar] Assad regime. It has not devoted much, if any, effort targeting ISIL's leadership. At the same time, we have not seen the Russian military campaign use precision weaponry on a regular basis."

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Video: CSPAN

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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."

Cook said there isn't even information to suggest Russian planes were conducting strikes anywhere in the vicinity where al-Adnani was hit.

"I know what ISIL itself has said. I know what the Russians have said," he continued. "We don't trust -- we are not going to be satisfied simply to trust ISIL and the Russians on this."

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After the operative's death was announced Tuesday, the Pentagon said it was U.S.-led coalition forces that targeted al-Adnani with a "precision strike" near Al-Bab, a north Syrian town near Aleppo. Wednesday, Cook reiterated that claim and said the terror spokesman was targeted as he rode in a convoy.

"We are still assessing the results of that strike," he said.

"It would be laughable but for the very real humanitarian suffering Russia has inflicted," a U.S. defense official said of Russia's claim. "We stand by the statement we made yesterday. We conducted a strike that targeted al-Adnani."

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Al-Adnani was viewed by the Pentagon as a high value target and possibly the most likely successor to lead the Islamic State militant group in the event its current chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed. The State Department had offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

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