Washington, Dec 13: A coalition drone strike in Syria killed three Islamic State leaders involved in plotting foreign attacks, including two men who helped facilitate last year's attacks in Paris, the Pentagon said today. "The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
They were killed in a December 4 air strike in Raqa, an IS stronghold in Syria. Cook said two of those killed - Salah-Eddine Gourmat and Sammy Djedou - were involved in facilitating the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks, in which 130 people died.
Gourmat was a French national, and Djedou was Belgian. Both of them were "close associates" of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, an IS spokesman and an external operations leader who was killed in a coalition air strike in August.
The third person killed was Walid Hamman, a Frenchman who Cook said was a suicide-attack planner who was convicted in absentia in Belgium for a terror plot disrupted in 2015. They were riding together in a vehicle at the time of the drone strike, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said. All three belonged to a network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, a Tunisian killed in an air strike last month, officials said.
Last year's IS-claimed attacks in Paris saw suicide bombers and gunmen launch a coordinated assault across the French capital, including at the Bataclan, a concert hall where 90 people were killed by three attackers during a rock gig in the culmination of the carnage. Gourmat had worked on external attacks in Europe, the Middle East and north Africa and was involved in the "financial facilitation" of the Paris attacks, Davis said.
Djedou was involved in plotting Europe attacks, Davis added without giving details about his role in the Paris attacks. Hamman was a "longtime French terrorist" who helped IS seize Mosul and other operations, Davis said. In March 2014, a French court sentenced an absent Gourmat, then 24, to four years in prison for charges including trying to conduct jihad in Syria.
He had been arrested with two other men in May 2012 at an airport near Saint-Etienne in central France carrying a revolver, night-vision goggles, camouflage clothing and tactical vests.