Pentagon officials say they are “optimistic but uncertain” after Friday airstrikes against the Syrian town of Shahdadi which they say may well have killed Abu Omar al-Shishani, aka Omar the Chechen, who they think was in a vehicle they blew up.
Shishani was described by US officials as ISIS “de facto Minister of War,” and a close military aide to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’ leader. He was recognizable in ISIS videos for his bright red beard.
The US reluctance to declare his death a certainty reflects the sheer number of times he and other ISIS leaders have been “confirmed” killed only to reemerge unharmed. Officials are hopeful, however, that his death would curb ISIS’ ability to recruit in the former Soviet Union.
That appears to be an uncertain supposition, however, even if Shishani was ultimately slain in the attack, as ISIS is believed to have a significant number of fighters from the Caucasus, and the high-profile killing of one by a US airstrike would likely only serve to bolster his legend in propaganda videos.
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