Defense officials have announced that a raid in Syria in early March killed Islamic State’s second-in-command Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Haji Imam.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said at a press briefing on Friday:
First, we are systemically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet. Indeed, the U.S. military killed several key ISIL terrorists this week, including, we believe, Haji Imam, who was an ISIL senior leader, serving as a finance minister, and who is also responsible for some external affairs and plots.
He was a well-known terrorist within ISIL’s ranks dating back to its earliest iteration as al-Qaeda in Iraq, when he worked under Zarqawi as its liaison for operations with Pakistan. The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization’s ability for them to conduct operations both inside and outside of Iraq and Syria. This is the second senior ISIL leader we’ve successfully targeted this month, after confirming the death of ISIL’s so-called minister of war a short time ago.
The United States government placed a $7 million bounty on him. They believed the terrorist group would promote him to leader if anything happened to “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Imam taught physics in Iraq before he joined al-Qaeda in 2004. Officials put him in prison, but released him in 2012. Then he traveled to Syria, where he eventually joined the Islamic State.
“As our partners move forward, we’re continuing to bring relentless pressure on ISIL commanders in Mosul. And we’ve taken a significant number of actions this week, one of which I’ve already mentioned,” Carter continued, adding:
But second, we targeted Abu Sarah, one of the top ISIL leaders charged with paying fighters in Northern Iraq. Next, we targeted a number of ISIL associates who were directly involved in external plotting and training. And these precise actions came after recent strikes that destroyed a significant quantity of improvised explosive devices and bomb-making equipment that could have been used against our partners headed for Mosul.
We believe these actions have been successful and have done damage to ISIL.
The Daily Beast reported that Carter will soon also “confirm the reported killing of” Islamic State War Minister Omar al-Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen. The United States government placed a $5 million bounty on him.
Officials initially told Reuters the commander died in an airstrike on March 4 in al-Shaddadi. Another official said the U.S. targeted him specifically with the airstrike in question.
The following day, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Shishani had not yet died, but the terrorist group moved him to a hospital in Raqqa. Shishani died “in a hospital in the eastern suburbs of Raqqa.” An Iraqi commander said the Islamic State buried him in Deir el-Zour.
“As Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph] Dunford noted earlier this week, the momentum of this campaign is now clearly on our side,” said Carter. “The United States military will continue to work intensively with our coalition partners to build on this progress as our counterparts throughout our governments work to defend our homelands at the same time.”