(U.S Department of Defense) During a talk today with airmen assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter confirmed the deaths of three key leaders of ISIL, on Dec. 4.
The secretary told the airmen they were first to know about the confirmed deaths.
“We don’t talk about these operations very much,” he said, “but you’re the first to know. I can confirm today that we took out three of ISIL’s key leaders in the last couple of weeks [in] one strike. These were guys who were linked to plots right here in Europe, and I can’t share all the details with you, but, for example, with the  Paris attacks.”
In a statement released shortly after Carter’s troop talk, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the three were killed by a coalition precision airstrike.
“Two of those targeted — Salah Gourmat, and Sammy Djedou — were involved in facilitating the Nov. 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris. Both were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the ISIL external operations leader who died in an August coalition airstrike,” Cook said.
The third ISIL leader killed in the strike, Walid Hamman, was a suicide attack planner convicted in absentia in Belgium for a terror plot disrupted in 2015, he added.
“All three were part of a network led by Boubaker al-Hakim, killed in another coalition airstrike on November 16. The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Cook said.
Since mid-November the coalition has targeted and killed five top ISIL external plotters, he said, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq.