Islamic State says 'minister of war' Shishani killed

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

ISIL 'top commander' Omar al-Shishani killed in Iraq

Abu Omar al-Shishani, who the Pentagon described as Islamic State's "minister of war", was killed in combat in the Iraqi city of Shirqat, south of Mosul, a news agency that supports the militant group said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon said in March that Shishani had likely been killed in a U.S. air strike in Syria, but this was the first time the group appeared to confirm his death.

Reuters could not independently verify the statement from Amaq news agency, which Islamic State regularly uses to issue reports and which denied Shishani's death after the Pentagon's comments in March.

Islamic State supporters exchanged notes of praise and condolence on social media, including pictures of the ginger-bearded fighter, and pledged to launch a fresh offensive in his honor.

Officials at the Pentagon said they were aware of Wednesday's report but could not confirm or deny it.

See more of Abu Omar al-Shishani and his followers:

7 PHOTOS
Abu Omar al-Shishani
See Gallery
Abu Omar al-Shishani
This image made from undated video posted during the weekend of June 28, 2014 on a social media account frequently used for communications by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Omar al-Shishani standing next to the group's spokesman among a group of fighters as they declare the elimination of the border between Iraq and Syria. Al-Shishani, one of hundreds of Chechens who have been among the toughest jihadi fighters in Syria, has emerged as the face of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, appearing frequently in its online videos â in contrast to the group's Iraqi leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who remains deep in hiding and has hardly ever been photographed. (AP Photo/militant social media account via AP video)
This image made from undated video posted during the weekend of June 28, 2014 on a social media account frequently used for communications by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Omar al-Shishani standing next to the group's spokesman among a group of fighters as they declare the elimination of the border between Iraq and Syria. Al-Shishani, one of hundreds of Chechens who have been among the toughest jihadi fighters in Syria, has emerged as the face of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, appearing frequently in its online videos â in contrast to the group's Iraqi leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who remains deep in hiding and has hardly ever been photographed. (AP Photo/militant social media account via AP video)
 In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa city in Syria. The U.S. -led coalition has been targeting top IS officials. Over the past months, American officials have said that the U.S. has killed a string of top commanders from the group, including its "minister of war" Omar al-Shishani, feared Iraqi militant Shaker Wuhayeb, also known as Abu Wahib. (Militant website via AP, file)
In this undated file image posted on Monday, June 30, 2014, by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, north Syria. The U.S. -led coalition has been targeting top IS officials. Over the past months, American officials have said that the U.S. has killed a string of top commanders from the group, including its "minister of war" Omar al-Shishani, feared Iraqi militant Shaker Wuhayeb, also known as Abu Wahib. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, File)
 In this undated file image posted by the Raqqa Media Center in Islamic State group-held territory, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the Islamic State group ride tanks during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. The U.S. -led coalition has been targeting top IS officials. Over the past months, American officials have said that the U.S. has killed a string of top commanders from the group, including its "minister of war" Omar al-Shishani, feared Iraqi militant Shaker Wuhayeb, also known as Abu Wahib. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center, File)
 This undated image released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows members of the Islamic State group as they prepare to kill men who were allegedly spying for the U.S.-led coalition in the province of Salah al-Din, Iraq. The U.S. -led coalition has been targeting top IS officials. Over the past months, American officials have said that the U.S. has killed a string of top commanders from the group, including its "minister of war" Omar al-Shishani, feared Iraqi militant Shaker Wuhayeb, also known as Abu Wahib. The Arabic caption on the photo reads, "the detention of a spying cell by the special security force." (militant photo via AP)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based security expert who advises the Iraqi government, said a source in Shirqat confirmed Shishani had been killed there along with several other militants.

Iraqi forces are advancing towards Mosul, the largest city still under the control of Islamic State. They have mostly surrounded Shirqat, 250 km (160 miles) north of Baghdad, and last week retook a major air base from the militants to use in the main push on Mosul, 60 km further north.

CONFLICTING REPORTS

But Rami Abdelrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Shishani had been wounded in March and died soon after in the countryside east of Raqqa.

"I confirmed from the doctor who went to see him," said Abdelrahman, who tracks the war in Syria through a network of contacts. He told Reuters Islamic State likely delayed announcing his death to allow time to line up a successor.

Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen, ranked among America's most wanted militants under a U.S. program that offered up to $5 million for information to help remove him from the battlefield.

Born in 1986 in Georgia, then still part of the Soviet Union, Shishani had a reputation as a close military adviser to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was said by followers to have relied heavily on him.

Shishani once fought in military operations as a rebel in Chechnya before joining Georgia's military in 2006 and fighting against Russian troops before being discharged two years later for medical reasons, according to U.S. officials.

He was arrested in 2010 for weapons possession and spent more than a year in jail, before leaving Georgia in 2012 for Istanbul and later Syria.

He decided to join Islamic State the following year and pledged his allegiance to Baghdadi. The State Department said Shishani was identified as Islamic State's military commander in a video distributed by the group in 2014.

Read Full Story

People are Reading