After the Pentagon released a statement regarding the air strike carried out to target senior ISIL leaders, it was recently reported that they failed to kill the main ISIS commander, according to Reuters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that the ISIS commander was badly wounded by the air strike, but he is very much alive. This is a direct contradiction with the U.S. Defense’s statement that the group’s “minister of war” was “likely” killed when they attacked.
Several U.S. officials spoke with Reuters and said that they were positive about the attack and thought that it was a success. However, there was still no confirmation at the time.
On the other hand, Rami Abdulrahman, the Syrian Observatory director, said that their target, Abu Omar al-Shishani, was not killed. The said the ISIS leader is currently staying at the Islamic State’s base of operations in Raqqa for treatment.
“He did not die,” the director confirmed.
Still, Reuters noted that there was no way for them to verify the information given out by the director since the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights “gathers its information from all sides in the conflict.”
Al-Shihani — whose real name is Tarkhan Batirashvili — was born in the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia. He is known as “one of the bloodiest jihadist commanders,” though he lived a quiet life and worked as a shepherd before.
It was in 2007 that al-Shihani joined the Georgian Army, where he succeeded. He moved up the ranks quickly, and other reports noted that he was even included in a “special reconnaissance” group.
From being an army sergeant, he became an artillery observer and then participated in the Georgian army’s offensive attack in 2008.
According to the Pentagon, he is a “battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria. His potential removal from the battlefield would negatively impact ISIL’s ability to recruit foreign fighters — especially those from Chechnya and the Caucasus regions — and degrade ISIL’s ability to coordinate attacks and defense of its strongholds like Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq.”
Al-Shishani also led the ISIS campaign throughout Syria. He also led the terrorist organization in western Iraq to establish a group near Baghdad.
Apparently, al-Shishani is using the skills he learned from training with the U.S. military. According to an anonymous leak who was a former comrade of the ISIS leader, al-Shishani was “a perfect solder from his first days, and everyone knew he was a star.”
“We trained him well, and we had lots of help from America. In fact, the only reason he didn’t go to Iraq to fight alongside America was that we needed his skills here in Georgia,” an anonymous Georgian military official told McClatchy.
A Philadephia-based analyst from the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Michael Cecire, said that al-Shishani’s story was compelling. He said that he was a “man with a modest background, sickly and impoverished before he went to Syria,” who became “a great battlefield commander defying the world”… a “seemingly emulable, rags-to-riches story.”
Cecire added that al-Shishani is a great influence on ISIS, in terms of morality and military strategies.
“Batirashvili’s ability to demonstrate ISIS’ tactical prowess attracted fighters in droves from other factions and tipped the scales in foreign fighter flow and recruitment,” Cecire said. “In the North Caucasus, young people no longer wanted to fight in Syria with the increasingly marginalized Caucasus Emirate (groups), but wanted to fight with the winners – ISIS.”
So far, the Pentagon has not released a statement yet regarding the tentative claim.