ISIS' finance minister, Haji Imam, killed: Defense Officials

Carter: Top ISIS Figure Killed in U.S. Raid

ISIS' finance minister was killed during an operation this month, defense officials announced Friday, a major score for the U.S.-led coalition as it tries to erode the terror group's grip on the region.

READ MORE: A new pro-ISIS propaganda video features Donald Trump trashing Brussels

In addition to the death of Haji Imam this month, the Pentagon confirmed the killing of another top leader -- Omar al-Shishani -- in an earlier raid.

Haji Imam
Haji Imam (Photo courtesy: U.S. Department of State)

"Striking leadership is necessary, but it's far from efficient," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at a news conference, adding that the U.S. is "systematically eliminating" ISIS' cabinet.

"Leaders can be replaced, however, these leaders have been around for a long time," Carter said. "They are senior. They're experienced. So eliminating them is an important objective and achieves an important result."

Carter declined to provide further details about the operations, and didn't immediately confirm where and when exactly the efforts to kill Haji Imam took place.

READ MORE: Top ISIS Leader 'Omar the Chechen' Believed Dead in U.S. Airstrike: Defense Official

Haji Imam -- whose real name is Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli -- was widely reported as a senior leader and second in command in the organization.

Raid's Success Shakes ISIS Command Structure

Haji Imam oversaw and steered ISIS' funding through its networks, Carter said. He also reportedly managed the day to day operations for ISIS and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and was also the main link to shadowy ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who currently has minimal communication with the organization.

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ISIS' finance minister, Haji Imam, killed: Defense Officials
A civilian woman carries her child during a battle with Islamic State militants, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Civilians walk past Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) during a battle with Islamic State militants, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A displaced man, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, carries a woman in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
An Iraqi soldier is seen during a battle with Islamic State militants, north of Mosul, Iraq, December 30, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Iraqi people flee the Islamic State stronghold in the town of Bartella, east of Mosul, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi people flee the Islamic State stronghold in the town of Bartella, east of Mosul, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Iraqi rapid response forces cook food in their headquarters during the war against the Islamic state militants east of Mosul, Iraq, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Mohammad Hassan, whose hand was chopped off by Islamic State militants, sits outside a house at Nimrud village, south of Mosul, Iraq, December 13, 2016. Picture taken December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Displaced Iraqi boys, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, warm themselves by a fire in Khazer camp, Iraq,December 15, 2016.REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Displaced Iraqi woman, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, bids her relatives farewell as she leave Khazer camp to go home, Iraq December 10, 2016.REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Iraqi Christians come to visit the heavily damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
An Iraqi father (L) mourns the death of his son, who was killed during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
An Iraqi girl, who was wounded during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, lies on a bed at a field hospital in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Displaced people who fled the clashes transfer to camps during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 30, 2016 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A member of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gestures in military vehicle during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 30, 2016 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man gestures as other men sit on the ground as an Iraqi Special forces intelligence team check their ID cards as they search for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Two men hold hands as an Iraqi Special forces intelligence team searches for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Oilfields burned by Islamic State fighters are seen in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Boys stand in front of oilfields burned by Islamic State fighters in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Civilians flee fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A member of Shi'ite fighters carries a weapon during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A displaced woman from the outskirts of Mosul covers herself in a blanket in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, Iraq, November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
A girl attends classes after the city was recaptured from the Islamic State militants in Qayyara, Iraq, November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
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The confirmed deaths of Imam and al-Shishani present a key gain in ticking off some of the biggest names on the U.S.'s terror hit list and comes on the heels of terror attacks in Brussels that claimed at least 31 lives and wounded over 270 others.

Carter said he could not confirm whether Haji Imam was directly involved with Brussels or the siege last November in Paris, which intelligence officials say were done by the same ISIS-linked terror cell.

Either way, he said, those involved are examples of ISIS recruits from outside Syria and Iraq who serve as foreign fighters and then return to their homelands to unleash terror. In other cases, homegrown terrorists are simply inspired to do ISIS' bidding, Carter added.

"Even if it's just inspiration, it still takes you back to Iraq and Syria and the need to eliminate the sources for that inspiration," the defense secretary said.

READ MORE: John Kerry: We're Determined to Thwart Foreign Fighters

Intelligence sources previously told NBC News that the operation to take out al-Shishani -- nicknamed Omar the Chechen, known for his red -tinged beard -- occurred near the town of Shaddadi, which was seized by Syrian rebels from ISIS last month.

The State Department had put a bounty of up to $7 million for Iraqi-born al-Qaduli, who officials said had reintegrated himself into ISIS in Syria following his release from prison in 2012. He had also ascended the ranks of al Qaeda after joining in 2004, and was under the command of leader Abu Musab al-Zarqaei, who was killed in 2006.

Al-Qaduli was previously reported to have been killed last year during an airstrike on a mosque.

According to reports, he is a former Iraqi physics teacher who had emerged as ISIS' temporary leader and No. 2 after al-Baghdadi was supposedly wounded in coalition bombing.

Carter said beating back ISIS will continue to take time, but that the coalition is "gathering momentum, and we're seeing that momentum is having effect."

"We've learned a great deal," he added, "and we're continuing to learn how they get their finances and dry them up."

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