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Report: Top Islamic State Commander Captured In U.S. Raid

Russian media outlets are reporting that a high-ranking Islamic State commander has been captured after a U.S. special forces raid in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Late Sunday, initial reports from the Russian state-controlled TASS news agency said Tarkhan Batirashvili, also known as Abu Omar al-Shishani, was apprehended after a joint U.S.-Kurdish raid.

The Pentagon has since denied the accuracy of reports, telling Russian outlet RIA Novosti that they could not confirm al-Shishani’s capture.

However, an Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed the reports in Sputnik, another Russian outlet, in an interview Monday.

“The US commandos have captured two field commanders and Abu Omar Al-Shishani,” Iraqi Brigadier General Saad Maan told Sputnik, adding the jihadis had been moved to the city of Sulaymaniyah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A high-value target, the U.S. State Department has offered up to $5 million dollars for information on al-Shishani’s. In 2014, he was named by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

The rumored capture of al-Shishani comes following a Defense Department announcement that more special forces personnel would be sent to the Middle East to assist in the fight against Islamic State. “These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in early December, adding that more than fifty elite American soldiers would be added to the campaign in Iraq.

The Georgian national is recognized as a senior commander of the Islamic State and is a member of its Shura Council in Syria. He pledged allegiance to Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in 2013, after having been involved in other jihadist outfits in Syria.

He has in recent past announced his intentions to install an Islamic caliphate.

“Out aim is clear and everyone knows why we are fighting. Out path is toward the caliphate,” he said in an Islamic State-produced video in 2014. “We will bring back the caliphate, and if God does not make it out fate to restore the caliphate, then we ask him to grant us martyrdom.”

According to The Long War Journal, al-Shishani has “orchestrated hundreds of suicide attacks, including scores executed by jihadists from across the globe.”

Before waging jihad, al-Shishani was a sergeant in the Georgian Army and fought during the Russia-Georgia flare up in 2008.

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