Updated at 7:55 a.m. ET on 2018-04-21
The Pentagon said it could not confirm social media reports of the death of an Indonesian Islamic State (IS) militant fighting in Syria but acknowledged that U.S.-led coalition fighter jets had bombed the area where he was allegedly killed this week.
The elusive Bahrumsyah, who uses the nom-de-guerre Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi, allegedly leads an Indonesian-Malaysian unit of the IS known as Katibah Nusantara, which aims to establish a so-called caliphate in Southeast Asia.
This is not the first time Bahrumsyah has been reported killed. A year ago, some news reports said he died in a suicide mission in Syria but experts clarified that he was not the one who died in the blast.
This week, his sympathizers sent messages on Telegram, a social-media channel often used by IS supporters, eulogizing Bahrumsyah and claiming that he was “confirmed a martyr having been exposed to the bombardment of a B-1 Lancer fighter jet in the Hajin, Syria area.”
“We did conduct airstrikes in the reported general area on the day Bahrumsyah was allegedly killed, but I do not have confirmation of his death,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told BenarNews.
“The Coalition remains committed to achieving the lasting defeat of ISIS and its affiliates,” he said on Thursday, using the other name for IS. “We must not relent on ISIS or permit these terrorists to recover from their battlefield losses.”
On Friday, the Coalition Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) also confirmed in an email to BenarNews that bombings took place in the area where Bahrumsyah was allegedly killed.
“On April 17 in Syria, Coalition forces conducted several strikes near Abu Kamal, but we cannot confirm any further info on these strikes,” the public affairs office of Operation Inherent Resolve said.
In a news release issued Thursday, CJTF-OIR also said “the Iraqi air force conducted an air strike near Hajin, Syria, against Daesh terrorists operating near the Iraq-Syria border on April 19,” using the other name for IS.
“The strike was approved by the Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Dr. Haider Al Abadi,” the news release said, adding that the operation “was planned and executed by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command with intelligence support from the Coalition.”
The United States has led the coalition against IS since 2014 and U.S. troops have served as advisers on the ground with Iraqi government forces and with Kurdish and Arab groups in Syria.
Officials of Indonesia’s National Agency for Counter-Terrorism (BNPT) told BenarNews they did not receive any reports on Bahrumsyah's death. Known pro-IS media have also been silent about Bahrumsyah's purported killing.
Indonesian authorities took notice of Bahrumsyah in 2014 when he appeared in a YouTube video calling on Muslim youths in Indonesia and Malaysia to join IS. The release of that video led to a government ban on IS.
Botched suicide attack denied
On March 14 last year, Singapore daily The Straits Times quoted pro-IS media as saying that Bahrumsyah died while carrying out a botched suicide attack in Syria.
But six days later, IS news outlet Amaq News Agency described the report as “false,” and Jakarta-based security analyst Sidney Jones later said the man who was killed “wasn’t even from Indonesia, he was from Uzbekistan.”
Bahrumsyah, whose aliases also include Bachrumsyah Mennor Usman, and Abu Ibrahim al Indonesi, was classified last year by the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
Zam Yusa in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia contributed to this story.
Updated to add information in the main photo caption.