Top ISIS Commander ‘Likely Killed’ In U.S. Airstrike

The death of Abu Omar al-Shishani would be a big victory in the fight to take out ISIS leaders

An ISIS flag hangs in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon. — (REUTERS)
Mar 09, 2016 at 4:50 AM ET

A top commander of the Islamic State and one of the most-wanted militants was “likely killed” in a U.S. strike in Syria last week, officials have said.

Vocativ reviewed ISIS forums and social media accounts, finding that as of early Wednesday, ISIS had neither confirmed or denied his death. The U.S. was still seeking to determine whether or not the airstrike had killed him.

But the killing of the commander, Abu Omar al-Shishani, would mark a significant victory for the U.S. in its long and ongoing fight to knock out ISIS leaders. The Pentagon described al-Shishani as a ISIS’ “minister of war” and believes he was sent to Syria to strengthen ISIS troops following recent losses, Reuters reported.

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“His potential removal from the battlefield would negatively impact ISIL’s ability to recruit foreign fighters — especially those from Chechnya and the Caucus regions — and degrade ISIL’s ability to coordinate attacks and defense of its strongholds like Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman, Peter Cook, said in a statement, CNN reported.

Born in Georgia—then a republic of the Soviet Union—in 1986, al-Shishani joined ISIS three years ago, a defense official told CNN. After working for the terror group in the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi put him in charge of overseeing military operations in the northern part of the country, the official said.

In addition to targeting ISIS leaders and militants, U.S. warplanes are hunting jihadists across seven countries, from North Africa to Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters are also being targeted. One of the recent assaults took place in Libya, where airstrikes hit an ISIS training camp west of the country’s capital, Tripoli.