In the second major blow to ISIS leadership in a month’s time, Pentagon officials announced Friday that Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli aka Haji Imam, ISIS’ number two in command, was killed last month in an air raid.
This death follows that of ISIS’ “Minister of War” Abu Omar al-Shishani aka Omar the Chechen, who was killed in an airstrike last month. Although rumors that he survived the attack floated around, it was confirmed today in the same press conference by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
The raid on Imam in Syria was carried out by U.S. Special Operations forces on the vehicle he was traveling in – the result of days of tracking in secret. The raid happened during the day and was intended to capture him alive. In the ensuing chaos, 3 other men died as well.
These forces are part of the group of 50 U.S. special operators currently in northern Syria that have been calling in airstrikes and carrying out raids with increased efficiency. Secretary Carter said Friday that ISIS’ cabinet is being “systematically eliminated.”
Imam is a former physics teacher that has since had a $7 million bounty placed on his head by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Here is a little more background on Imam:
Al-Qaduli was once a member of al Qaeda in Iraq, which later splintered into ISIS. Al-Qaduli previously served as the notorious al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s right-hand man, according to Time. He allegedly acted as ISIS’ leader when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, was wounded. Many have speculated that he could have been next in line as the ISIS head. He was considered one of the group’s most experienced fighters and had considerable sway over day-to-day operations of the group, as al-Baghdadi has gone into hiding.
It is also believed that Imam served as leader of ISIS when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was wounded last March in an airstrike. He also played the role of finance minister and previously helped al Qaeda in Mosul.
Not everyone agrees with where Imam ranks however. Kyle Orton, a Middle East expert and editor of numerous publications including the independent sent these interesting tweets after the news broke:
Here’s some additional info on the other confirmed kill, Omar the Chechen:
Batirashvili (aka Omar al-Shishani) was raised as a Christian but later converted to Islam.
He was born and grew up in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, considered the epicentre of the country’s fundamentalist problem.
This tiny, remote valley, about 13km long and 3km wide, lies near the Chechen-Georgian border about 160km from the capital Tbilisi. The region is home to more than 100 Georgians who have joined ISIL’s ranks.
Batirashvili served as a non-commissioned officer in the Georgian armed forces and was deployed as a forward observer calling in artillery strikes against Russian soldiers during the Battle of Tskhinvali in the opening days of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
In 2010, Batirashvili was diagnosed with tuberculosis, discharged from the army, and later jailed on illegal gun charges.
After leaving prison, Batirashvili made his way to Syria.
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