U.S. airstrikes targeted and may have killed a top commander of the Islamic State terrorist group who has operated in both Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon said.
Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, who goes by aliases including “Omar the Chechen” and Abu Omar, was among a group of ISIS fighters targeted March 4 in the Al Shaddadi area of northeastern Syria by multiple waves of manned and unmanned U.S. aircraft, according to a defense official who asked for anonymity and wasn’t authorized to discuss the attack publicly.
A native of Georgia, Batirashvili was one of 12 fighters the Treasury Department designated as global terrorists in 2014. He was singled out as the head of Islamic State’s military in a June 2014 video, months after he led about 1,000 foreign fighters attacking Syrian government positions, Treasury said.
“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,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Tuesday, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State.
The U.S. strikes come as a partial cease-fire started in February has lowered the level of violence in Syria, five years after civil war began. Russia and the U.S. brokered that accord in an effort to breathe new life into a stalled peace process. The United Nations aims to begin a new round of negotiations on March 10.