JEDDAH: Top Daesh commander Omar Al-Shishani has been killed, the terrorist group announced on Wednesday.
Aamaq News Agency, media wing of the jihadist group, said in a statement posted on its site that the 30-year-old jihadist was killed in battle in the Iraqi city of Sharqat.
Al-Shishani was “martyred” in the town of Al-Sharqat, near Mosul, while helping to “halt the military campaign” against the Daesh-held city, Aamaq said.
Daesh supporters published eulogies to Al-Shishani on social media and messaging networks.
In March, US and Iraqi officials, as well as Syrian activists, said that Al-Shishani was killed in a US airstrike in Syria, but Aamaq came out with a statement denying the report.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting reports.
Iraqi forces are conducting operations to set the stage for a final push to Mosul, the country’s second city that fell to Daesh in June 2014.
Sharqat lies on the road north to Mosul, but Iraqi forces recently bypassed the area to recapture a key military base in the Qayyarah area farther north that the Pentagon said will be a “springboard” for the push toward the city.
Al-Shishani (meaning, The Chechen) has been identified as Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili 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 fought Russian forces again in Georgia in 2008.
He was said to have joined Daesh in 2013 and was later named by Daesh “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as commander in northern Syria.
He was ranked among America’s most wanted militants under a US program that offered up to $5 million for information to help remove him from the battlefield.
His exact rank was unclear, but US officials had branded him as “equivalent of the secretary of defense” for the jihadist group.
(Additional input from Agencies)