While there is a lot that the world doesn’t know about the leadership structure of ISIS, one thing is clear. Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, aka Haji Mutazz, is the deputy leader behind Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. We know this because he is identified as such each time the US claims to have killed him.
Back in December, the Pentagon claimed a major get in assassinating Mutazz, along with another “ISIS leader,” in airstrikes. There were no details given at the time, but there was never a retraction either, so everyone apparently went on assuming Mutazz was slain.
That was true at least until this week, when the White House once again announced that they had killed Mutazz, who was still identified as second-in-command of ISIS, in an airstrikes on August 18. They predicted that this time, his death would “adversely impact ISIS operations” because of his influence.
Analysts were quick to caution against expecting big changes after the latest death, noting that past deaths of leaders hadn’t amounted to much, as ISIS was able to replace those people in those positions without impacting their operations. This was doubly true of Mutazz, as ISIS already weathered news of his “death” once without any real impact.
Hayali, aka Mutazz, was also referred to by US officials at times as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, and served in the Iraqi military before the 2003 US occupation. He is also, like many ISIS leaders, said to have served time in US-run prisons in occupied Iraq.