Islamic State Leader Targeted by U.S. Is Dead, Rights Group Says

A top commander of Islamic State targeted by U.S. airstrikes nine days ago in northeastern Syria is “clinically dead,” the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement.

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, also known as Abu Umar al-Shishani, was seriously wounded in a strike near Al Shaddadi on March 4. A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity days after the action, said Batirashvili was among a group of Islamic State fighters targeted by waves of manned and unmanned U.S. aircraft.

A native of Georgia, Batirashvili was one of 12 fighters the U.S. Treasury Department designated as global terrorists in 2014. He was singled out as the head of Islamic State’s military in a June 2014 video, months after he led about 1,000 foreign fighters attacking Syrian government positions, Treasury said.

Batirashvili had been sent to Al Shaddadi to bolster Islamic State fighters following a series of strategic defeats by local forces the U.S. is supporting, Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, said on March 8. The U.S. was then still assessing the results of this operation.

“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,” Cook said, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.