In what officials said was a major strike against Isis, the US military has claimed it has killed the Islamist group’s deputy in an operation inside Syria.
While he declined to provide anything other than the most basic details, US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter, sitting next to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford, announced that Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli was targeted and killed earlier this week. The militant was better known as Haji Imam and considered to be the deputy of Isis leader Omar al-Baghdadi.
The former physics teacher was designated as a global terrorist by the US in 2014 and the following year it offered a reward of $7m for information about him that led to his arrest or capture.
“We are steadily eliminating Isil’s cabinet,” said Mr Carter, using another acronym for Isis. He said seveal senior figures within the group had been killed, among them Haji Imam, whom he said acted as the Islamists’ finance minister and also overseen some external plots. “He was a well-known terrorist within Isil dating back to its original iteration as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
The senior military official refused to say whether the Isis leader had been killed by a drone strike or else by US Special Forces on the ground. He said that to divulge such details would undermine the ongoing efforts against the Islamists.
Mr Carter also confirmed the killing of Isis’s “minister of war” in a strike earlier this month. Tarkhan Batirashvili, better known as Omar al-Shishani or “Omar the Chechen,” was lethally wounded by an airstrike. The fighter, a Syrian-based Georgian national, was reported to have been killed near the Syrian town of al-Shadad.
Mr Carter said that several other senior Isis figures who were involved in the finance operations of Isis had been killed. He said that Iraqi forces had also made progress in retaking territory in the north of Iraq that had been in Isis’s hands. “As a result, it become a lot harder for Isis leaders to move between Raqqa and Mosul,” he said.