A US-led coalition air strike in northern Iraq killed two senior figures from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) late last month, including a commander considered to be the group's deputy minister of war, the Pentagon has said. 

The June 25 air strike near Mosul, ISIL's stronghold in Iraq, killed Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

According to the Pentagon, Bajari had overseen ISIL's capture of Mosul in 2014.

The other ISIL member killed in the raid was Hatim Talib al-Hamduni, a military leader in Mosul, Cook added.


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"Their deaths, along with strikes against other ISIL leaders in the past month, have critically degraded ISIL's leadership experience in Mosul and removed two of their most senior military members in northern Iraq," Cook said.

In June, Iraq's military claimed victory in a US-backed offensive against ISIL fighters in the city of Fallujah, west of the capital Baghdad, after a month-long operation.

After Fallujah's recapture, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi forces would now set their sights on Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city and ISIL's last remaining major hub in the country.

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, DC, said the US-led coalition air strikes were part a strategy to make it easier fo the Iraqi army to launch an offensive against ISIL fighters in Mosul.

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She added, however, that such an operation was not imminent. 

"Even though US officials say they have momentum on their side, the strikes that killed these two ISIL leaders does not mean that the offensive to retake Mosul is about to launch.

"If anything, analysts say it may not happen before 2017 because there is a lot of other territory inside Iraq and neighbouring Syria which the US and local fighters would like to reclaim before they go after the big prizes of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria."

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Source: Al Jazeera and agencies