A leader of ISIS who is known to have enslaved many women and children in a village of Iraq has reportedly died in an airstrike.
An ISIS leader who provided the group with the religious justification for turning “infidel” women into sex slaves was killed earlier this week in a U.S. airstrike, according to reports on jihadi websites and NBC News.
The Pentagon refused to confirm al-Binali’s death, but a senior U.S. intelligence official did not deny the reports.
In addition, posts on ISIS forums in the “deep web” say 32-year-old Turki al-Binali was killed.
Alex Kassirer of Flashpoint Intelligence, which tracks ISIS social media for NBC News, reports that jihadis “are posting a lot of photos of him and eulogizing him (many referring to him by his kunya (battle name), Abu Sufyan al-Sulami).”
Many of the social media posts carried an Arabic hashtag that translates into “the martyrdom of Sheikh Turki al-Binali.”
Flashpoint also pointed to the local Raqqa website “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” which is run by opponents of ISIS and the Assad regime, that stated al-Binali was killed on Monday evening after “his vehicle was targeted” on “Al-Wadi street in central Raqqa.”
Jihadis “are posting a lot of photos of him and eulogizing him (many referring to him by his kunya (battle name), Abu Sufyan al-Sulami,” said Alex Kassirer of Flashpoint Intelligence, according to NBC.
ISIS has targeted people from minority-Muslim groups and other sects over recent years. In 2014, the group enslaved many women and girls from Yazidi villages in northwest Iraq.
Ideological arguments for this practice were provided by al-Binali.
“There is no doubt that enslaving [women] of infidel warriors” is permitted, he wrote in one post, and added “it is not permitted to kill [women] and children, but they become slaves to Muslims.”
In 2014, al-Binali was head of ISIS’ Research and Fatwa Department. He issued a fatwa justifying the rape of “infidel” women.
However, reports suggest al-Binali had been sidelined over recent months and was no longer playing such a prominent role in ISIS at the time of his death.
“He hasn’t been featured in ISIS official propaganda in two years,” said Laith Alkhouri of Flashpoint.
U.S.-backed forces are preparing a major offensive to retake Raqqa, the last large city held by ISIS.
“The sh*t is about to go down in Raqqa,” one anonymous Pentagon official told the Washington Examiner. “I would expect to see the assault begin in the coming days.”
Small arms have been delivered to the Syrian Democratic Forces, the ground forces which will lead the assault, and civilians have been urged to leave Raqqa to avoid getting caught up in the fighting.
“The SDF is poised around Raqqa. They are within 3 kilometers [1.8 miles] from the north and the east, and are about 10 kilometers [6 miles] from the city to the west,” said Col. Ryan Dillon, a U.S. military spokesman.
Almost 200,000 people have fled Raqqa and are being accommodated in nearby refugee camps.
Dillon added that an increased number of U.S. air strikes have been launched, with around 60 taking place over recent days.
Human rights groups have criticized the increased number of strikes, arguing that they are killing civilians. According to independent monitoring group Airwars, U.S. air strikes in the war against ISIS have killed over 3,800 people, Deutsche Welle reported.