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US: IS Commander 'Omar the Chechen' Has Died

  • Ken Bredemeier

FILE - Islamic State commander Omar al-Shishani (C), aka Omar the Chechen, is seen in an image made from undated video posted June 28, 2014, on a social media account frequently used for communications by the jihadist group.

FILE - Islamic State commander Omar al-Shishani (C), aka Omar the Chechen, is seen in an image made from undated video posted June 28, 2014, on a social media account frequently used for communications by the jihadist group.

The United States says that a top Islamic State commander known as Omar the Chechen has died from injuries he suffered a week ago when an American airstrike targeted him in Syria.

U.S. defense officials at first said that Omar al-Shishani, a fierce battle-hardened warlord with a thick red beard, had been killed along with 12 other Islamic State fighters in the attack on a meeting of jihadists. Later, they said he survived the airstrike but died Monday.

Shishani, the nom de guerre for Tarkhan Batirashvili, had a reputation as one of Islamic State's most capable commanders, with the U.S. having put a $5 million bounty on his head. U.S. officials described him as the "equivalent of the secretary of defense" for the jihadists.

He fought as a Chechen rebel against Russian forces before joining the Georgian military in 2006 and then battled Russian troops again in 2008.

Four years later, he surfaced in Syria as a leader of a battalion of foreign fighters. As the Islamic State group emerged in Syria in 2013, he was named the jihadists' commander for the northern part of the country.

The U.S. Defense Department said that he led Islamic State fighters in many battles in Syria and Iraq and had overseen the group's prison in Raqqa, the Islamic State's self-declared capital in northern Syria.

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