ISIS Military Commander Omar al-Shishani Dies Again

The Pentagon said it killed the red-bearded ISIS military commander Omar al-Shishani in an airstrike in March. (Background here.) ISIS chatter refuted this. Some said he had been wounded, others said he was just fine. Al-Shishani, who headed up the Army of Immigrants and split from Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Answar in 2013 when he pledged allegiance to ISIS leader al Baghdadi, has been declared dead at least five times.

Wednesday, Amaq News Agency, which is affiliated with ISIS but not an official ISIS media group, announced al Shishani died a few days ago in preparation of the upcoming battle to take back Mosul.

And the Pentagon has now admitted it was wrong in March, and al-Shishani was killed this week. [More...]

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said on July 14 that the United States is still working to confirm whether Omar al-Shishani was killed in the latest strike on July 10 as he met with 16 other IS leaders.

Despite having proclaimed in March that the red-bearded Russian nicknamed "Omar the Chechen" was believed dead from wounds sustained in an air strike at that time, Cook said the United States got indications very recently that he was not in fact dead, and that he would be at the July 10 meeting.

There has been criticism of his military abilities, claiming his mistakes cost a lot of jihadists their lives. He was added to the U.S. designated terrorist list in 2014 (press release here.)

As of mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member located in al-Raqqah, Syria. He was identified as the ISIL military commander in a public video distributed by the group in late June 2014. Batirashvili oversaw an ISIL prison facility in al-Tabqa, close to al-Raqqah, where ISIL possibly held foreign hostages. As of mid-2014, Batirashvili also coordinated closely with ISIL's financial section and had a base of operations for the terrorist organization in the Minbij, Syria area.

In early June 2014, Batirashvili ordered ISIL members to travel from Syria to Iraq to retrieve vehicles, weapons, and ammunition, according to information available to the United States Government. According to an official social media account for ISIL in the Syrian Hasakah Governorate at this time, Batirashvili issued an important communiqué ordering the general mobilization of all ISIL provinces to support the group’s efforts in Mosul, Iraq, and to prepare for any emergencies.

Earlier this year, Batirashvili was described as a member of ISIL's Shura Council, and he maintained unique authority within ISIL. In May 2013, he was appointed northern commander for ISIL by its leader Ibrahim 'Awwad Ibrahim 'Ali al-Badri (AKA Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), who was designated by the U.S. Department of State as an SDGT on October 4, 2011, with authority over ISIL’s military operations and ISIL’s forces in northern Syria, specifically Aleppo, Raqqa, Latakia, and northern Idlib provinces. As of late 2013, he was the ISIL Amir (leader) for northern Syria and was located in and around Aleppo Province. He was also in charge of fighters from Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus. At this time, Batirashvili led approximately 1,000 foreign fighters for ISIL to attack the Syrian regime at Jabal Shuwayhnah, Rif Aleppo, Syria.

But, according to other reputable sites, there are "sloppy" errors in the Treasury designation. And while he's usually referred to as Chechen, his roots are in Georgia. The Daily Beast and others reported he was trained by the U.S. while in the Georgian army.

The Daily Beast has learned that a young clean-shaven Tarkhan joined the U.S-funded Georgian army in 2006. He rose quickly. He was recruited into a newly created “Spetsnaz” intelligence unit and he carried out reconnaissance on Russian tank brigades during the 2008 Georgia/Russia War. Levan Amiridze, Tarkhan’s friend and military colleague, with whom he would later spend time in prison, confirmed that officers in the “secret services” of the ministry of defense were routinely trained by both U.S. and British instructors. So there is little doubt that the ISIS commander from Pankisi was either trained by the Americans or by the officers whom they had trained.

More on his Georgian roots here.
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