ISIS top commander killed in Syria in US airstrike

ISIS top commander killed in Syria in US airstrike

The United States is trying to verify that an airstrike recently killed a high-ranking ISIS commander after first saying that they killed him four months ago.

U.S. warplanes targeted senior ISIS operative Abu Omar al-Shishani in Iraq in the past few days, some four months after the coalition first thought it had killed him in Syria, according to two U.S. officials. The United States is still trying to confirm they got him this time, the U.S. officials said.

Al-Shishani, also known as “Omar the Chechen,” was targeted by an airstrike near Qarayyah, Iraq, south of Mosul, the officials said. But they would not speak publicly until it’s certain this time that he is dead. If he has been killed in Iraq, it’s a sign that top ISIS operatives are still able to move around the region with some degree of freedom.

ISIS appeared to confirm Wednesday that al-Shishani was killed. The group’s media wing, Amaq, citing an unspecified “military source,” said he was killed in Sharqat while fighting to defend Mosul. Sharqat is just south of Qarayyah, where the U.S. officials said he was killed.

Amaq, the ISIS-linked website, did not specify when Shishani was killed, but the loss of the commander is a significant blow to the group, which has suffered a string of setbacks in Iraq this year.

There was no direct statement from ISIS about al-Shishani, though dozens of the group’s supporters have posted online commentaries memorializing his death and sharing his photograph.

But then ISIS posted a message saying he had been injured but survived. U.S. officials privately acknowledged they might have erred in claiming he was dead, although some continued to say the U.S. airstrike killed him, with some officials saying he might have died several days later of his wounds.

Omar the Chechen

Al-Shishani was long considered one of ISIS’s most capable military commanders. With a $5 million reward on his head, he once served in an elite Georgian military unit before joining ISIS in 2013. He is also thought to have been involved in running a prison in Raqqa, Syria, where foreign hostages were hel

Shishani, whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, was a fierce, battle-hardened fighter with roots in Georgia.

Shishani, whose nom de guerre means “Omar the Chechen”, was one of the ISIS leaders most wanted by Washington, which had put a multi-million-dollar bounty on his head.

His exact rank was unclear, but US officials had branded him as “equivalent of the secretary of defence” for ISIS, also known as ISIS.

Shishani came from the former Soviet state of Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge region, which is populated mainly by ethnic Chechens.

He fought as a Chechen rebel against Russian forces before joining the Georgian military in 2006, and battled Russians again in Georgia in 2008.

He later resurfaced in northern Syria as the commander of a group of foreign fighters, and became a senior leader within ISIS.

The hardline group overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but has since lost ground to Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other assistance.

The group has responded to the battlefield setbacks by striking civilians, particularly Shia Muslims, and experts have warned that there may be more bombings as the group continues to lose ground.