United States, Washington: United States (US) officials said on Tuesday, a militant Islamic State (IS) group commander described by the Pentagon as the group’s minister of war was likely killed in a US air strike in Syria, in what would be a major victory in the US’ efforts to strike the militant group’s leadership. Abu Omar al-Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen, ranked among America’s most wanted militants under a US programme that offered up to $5 million for information to help remove him from the battlefield.
He was also one of the most-wanted men in Russia. IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was said by followers to have relied heavily on Shishani. The strike itself involved multiple waves of manned and unmanned aircraft, targeting Shishani near the town of al-Shadadi in Syria, a US official said. Shishani “was a Syrian-based Georgian national who held numerous top military positions within ISIL, including minister of war,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, using an acronym for the group.
The Pentagon believes Shishani was sent there to bolster IS troops after they suffered a series of setbacks at the hands of US-backed forces from the Syrian Arab Coalition, which captured al-Shadadi from the militants last month. Cook said the US military was still assessing the results of the strike, but acknowledged its potential significance. The Pentagon spokesman said Shishani’s death would undermine the group’s ability to coordinate attacks and defend its strongholds. It would also hurt IS’ ability to recruit foreign fighters, especially those from Chechnya and the Caucus regions, he said.