IS Top Cleric Killed In U.S. Coalition Air Strike

The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) has confirmed that the extremist group’s self-proclaimed top cleric was killed in a recent air strike in Syria.

"Coalition forces killed Turki Binali, the self-proclaimed 'grand mufti' or chief cleric of ISIS in an air strike May 31 in Mayadeen, Syria," the coalition said in a statement on June 20, using another abbreviation for the militant group.

Activists and IS supporters reported Binali’s death at the time, but there was no official confirmation until the statement.

The Bahraini cleric was one of the IS's most visible preachers and regularly appeared in its propaganda videos.

He reportedly wrote religious justifications for the enslavement of hundreds of women from Iraq's Yazidi minority and helped establish the IS branch in Libya.

The coalition statement described Binali as "a close confidant" of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said he "had a central role in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and provoking terrorist attacks around the world."

He was placed under U.S. sanctions for helping IS recruit fighters.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa