Islamic State announces death of key leader in Iraqi fighting

The death of top commander Abu Omar al-Shishani, in a battle in Iraq, is being announced by vehicles plying the streets of the Islamic State-controlled Syrian city of al-Raqqa, a monitoring group reported Thursday.

The Amaq news agency, an Islamic State affiliate, announced late Wednesday that al-Shishani was killed during fighting in the Iraqi city of al-Shirqat, north of Baghdad. However, his death had already been announced at least once before, in March.

"The new announcement about his death is a mere propaganda ... they want to show that their leaders are dying in battles, not raids," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told dpa. 

Followers of the Islamic State who are based in al-Raqqa, the group's de facto capital, vowed retaliation for al-Shishani's death. They described him as being killed in "the Crusaders territories," the Observatory said.

In March, the Pentagon described al-Shishani as "a minister of war" and announced that he was severely wounded in a US-led coalition strike in Syria.

A week later, the Observatory, which monitors violence across Syria, said al-Shishani died after suffering serious injuries in an airstrike in north-eastern Syria.

"I tend to confirm reports that he was killed in Shirqat a few days ago,” Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based expert on extremist groups, told dpa, adding that the jihadist leader may have survived the injuries he had sustained in March.

Al-Shishani, whose real name is Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, was a former sergeant in the Georgian army. In 2012, he left Georgia after being imprisoned and embracing hardline Islam. He later turned up in Syria.

Last update: Thu, 14/07/2016 - 12:16

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