Coalition Targets ISIL Leaders, Continues Hunt for Baghdadi by Lisa Ferdinando

Coalition efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s leadership have severely limited the terror group’s operations, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said today.

Army Col. Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad that the coalition has remained active in targeting ISIL leadership.

Coalition efforts have dismantled ISIL headquarters and disrupted the terrorists’ efforts to plan attacks in Iraq, Syria or abroad, Warren said.

“ISIL’s leadership is having an increasingly difficult time governing their so-called caliphate and they’re hunkered down with a degraded ability to shoot, move or communicate,” he said.

Coalition Hunting ISIL Leader Baghdadi

The coalition is actively searching for ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is believed to travel between Iraq and Syria, Warren said.

“I hope that al-Baghdadi watches these press conferences because I want him to know that we are hunting him,” Warren said.

“We will find him just like we found his mentor [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi and killed him, just like we found the grandmaster of terrorism, Osama bin Laden, [and] we killed him,” Warren told reporters.

“He will taste justice,” he added. “I don’t know if that justice will look like a Hellfire missile or if it will look like a dark prison cell somewhere but he will find justice one day.”

Baghdadi is a brutal terrorist, Warren said, who should “not sleep well — ever. … Someone’s either going to come in the window and snatch him up, or the entire house that he’s in will get reduced to rubble.”

Developments in Iraq, Syria

Warren said Iraqi security forces, supported by the coalition, kicked off a new offensive last week in the Tigris River Valley called Operation Valley Wolf.

“This shaping operation, which is taking place about 45 miles south of Mosul, will help set the conditions for the liberation of Mosul,” he said.

Units from Iraq’s 15th Division have already pushed west out of Makhmour, liberating the villages of Kudilah, Kharbardan and Karmadi, Warren said.

To the west, in the Euphrates River Valley, Operation Desert Lynx continues, the colonel said.

The Iraqi 7th Division seized the Kubaysah Cement Factory and cleared Kubaysah. Iraqi forces and tribal fighters are now clearing that town of IEDs, Warren said.

“Tribal forces are key to maintaining long-term stability after the army moves out of the area,” he said, adding that ISF is now nearing the outskirts of Heet.

Meanwhile, in Shaddadi, Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces are improving their defenses and preparing for future operations. In the last six weeks, they have gained more than 3,200 square kilometers, Warren reported.

He described operations along the Mar’a line as a “shoving match,” in which the SDF and ISIL have both gained and lost several villages and towns in the sector.

“The shoving match continues,” Warren said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoDNews)

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