US airstrike targeted IS military commander ‘Omar the Chechen’

Islamic Extremism

Senior Islamic State leader, Abu Omar al-Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen. REUTERS/US. Department of State

The U.S. military targeted a senior Islamic State commander in an airstrike in northeastern Syria last week, officials said Tuesday.

According to Pentagon press Secretary Peter Cook, an airstrike on March 4 targeted senior ISIL leader Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, also known as Abu Umar al-Shishani, and “Omar the Chechen.”

It was unclear whether Batirashvili was killed in the attack. Some have described him as the top overall military commander for IS.

“Batirashvili is a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria,” Cook said in a statement. “His potential removal from the battlefield would negatively impact ISIL’s ability to recruit foreign fighters – especially those from Chechnya and the Caucus regions — and degrade ISIL’s ability to coordinate attacks and defense of its strongholds like Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq.”

Batirashvili is one of hundreds of Chechens who have been among the toughest jihadi fighters in Syria. He is an ethnic Chechen from the Caucasus nation of Georgia, specifically from the Pankisi Valley, a center of Georgia’s Chechen community and once a stronghold for militants.

The U.S. air strike was conducted near al Shaddadi, a former Islamic State stronghold in Syria that was captured in February by the U.S.-backed, predominantly Kurdish, Syria Democratic Forces.

Story includes reporting by The Associated Press