Top ISIS leader may have been killed in U.S. airstrike

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(ISIS stock photo)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military and intelligence community is assessing whether a targeted U.S. airstrike killed a top ISIS leader, known as Omar “the Chechen,” several U.S. officials told CNN.

The strike took place on Friday near the Syrian town of al-Shaddadi. A Defense Department official said Shishani was “likely killed.”

Abu Omar al-Shishani, the ISIS leader targeted in the strike, has a reputation as one of ISIS’ most capable commanders. There has been a $5 million reward on his head from the U.S. State Department. Shishani is a former member of an elite Georgian military unit.

“Batirashvili is a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement, using another name for ISIS.

“His potential removal from the battlefield would negatively impact ISIL’s ability to recruit foreign fighters — especially those from Chechnya and the Caucus regions — and degrade ISIL’s ability to coordinate attacks and defense of its strongholds like Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq,” he said.

The defense official said 12 additional ISIS fighters were likely killed along with Shishani.

Shishani joined ISIS in 2013, the same official said, and later was in charge of a prison near Raqqa where the terror organization might have held foreign hostages.

Shishani instructed the group to transport vehicles and weapons to Syria from Iraq in June 2014, and he was eventually named ISIS’ northern commander by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, overseeing military operations in northern Syria, the defense official said.