ISIS 'defense secretary' survived Syria airstrike

Top ISIS commander Omar al-Shishani was seriously injured but not killed in American strike in northeastern Syria, says monitoring group.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

ISIS flag (illustration)
ISIS flag (illustration)

Top Islamic State (ISIS) commander leader Omar al-Shishani, known as Omar the Chechen, was "seriously injured" in a recent American strike in northeastern Syria but not killed, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, an American official said the jihadist had "likely died" in the assault.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that according to its sources the March 4 strike had indeed targeted the jihadist's convoy, killing his bodyguards, while he himself "was seriously injured".

"He's not dead," the Observatory's director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"He was taken from the province of Hasake to a hospital in Raqa province where he was treated by a jihadist doctor of European origin," he said. Raqa is ISIS's main stronghold in Syria.

The United States has stopped short of declaring Shishani dead, but a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said Shishani "likely died" in the assault by waves of American warplanes and drones, along with 12 other ISIS fighters.

The U.S. official branded Shishani "the ISIL equivalent of the secretary of defense," using another acronym for the jihadist group.

Shishani was one of the ISIS leaders most wanted by Washington which put a $5 million bounty on his head.

The lack of an American presence on the ground makes it difficult to assess the success of operations targeting militants in Syria, and Shishani's death has been falsely reported several times.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook on Tuesday described Shishani as "a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria."

The March 4 strikes took place near Al-Shadadi, a town in northeastern Syria that was retaken from ISIS last month by local anti-ISIS fighters allied with the international anti-ISIS coalition.

AFP contributed to this report.