Abu Wahib, a top leader of the Islamic State notoriously known as the “military emir” of Iraq’s Anbar province, was killed alongside three Islamic State fighters in a U.S. airstrike last week. The Pentagon confirmed Wahib’s death Monday, adding that he was travelling in a vehicle close to the town of Rutbah, located in Western Iraq before he was killed.
As the Washington Post reports, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, speaking to journalists, said it was now unsafe to be an Islamic State leader in Syria and Iraq these days because they were being hunted down, one by one. He went on to say that the death of Wahib was another instance of the unrelenting efforts of the Coalition in the fight against the Islamic State.
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) May 9, 2016
Wahib was a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq before joining the Islamic State. He was detained by military forces in the mid-2000s, but broke out of an Iraqi prison shortly after U.S. forces withdrew in 2011. This was not the first time that the military emir had been targeted. Earlier this year, it was falsely reported that he was killed in an airstrike during a gun battle between Islamic State fighters and Iraqi forces. He was killed May 6, but this time U.S. military forces waited 72 hours to confirm his death before making an announcement.
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A former Iraqi computer programmer, believed to be in his 30s, Wahib was a charismatic and vicious commander. He was known for his disposition towards using media as a propaganda tool for the Islamic State and gained notoriety for shooting amateur videos that hyped his fighting abilities and stone-cold ruthlessness. He styled his life around one of the founders of the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, who was a top al-Qaeda leader in Iraq before he was killed in 2006.
Wahib, like his mentor Zarqawi, wore a bushy beard and left his hair unkempt. But in contrast to many Islamic State leaders who avoided the spotlight, Wahib loved to perform in front of the camera, showing off his martial arts skills, as well as firing automatic weapons for show. Wahib’s showmanship in front of the cameras claimed he was influential in the victories of IS in Iraq’s western Anbar province. Videographers also showed him leading the charge against government buildings in Ramadi, the provincial capital.
— Iran (@Iran) May 10, 2016
His most infamous video was the 2013 murder of three Syrian truck drivers who were stopped on a highway in Iraq. In the video, Wahib accuses the Syrian drivers of being Shiites — a sect of Muslims who are seen by members of the Islamic State as heretics. Wahib had gone on to challenge how devout the men were with their Islamic faith.
“How many kneelings do you make at dawn prayer?” Wahib asked before executing the men and leaving their bodies on the highway.
Wahib’s death is the latest in a teeming list of IS leaders that have been targeted by the Pentagon. In March, a special mission targeted and killed Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, who was second-in-command of the terrorist group in eastern Syria. Abu Omar al-Shishani, known as the secretary of defense of the Islamic State, has also been killed.
Airstrikes have not only been targeting the ISIS leadership, but they have also been pinpointing financial institutions and oil facilities and taking them out, according to the Washington Post. The persistent aerial bombardment has now taken its financial toll on the terrorist group and its inability to pay its fighters.
[Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images]