The Islamic State group’s equivalent of a defense minister is believed to have been killed in a US airstrike in northeastern Syria, a US official says.
A US official speaking on condition of anonymity says Omar al-Shishani, a red-bearded Georgian fighting with the jihadist group in Syria, “likely died” in a March 4 assault by waves of US warplanes and drones, along with 12 other IS fighters.
Al-Shishani is the nom de guerre of Tarkhan Batirashvili, who ranked among the most wanted under a US program with a $5 million bounty on his head.
The United States stopped short of declaring him dead.
The lack of a US presence on the ground makes it difficult to assess the success of operations targeting militants in Syria, and Shishani’s death has been falsely reported several times.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook described Shishani as “a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria.”