US-led coalition eliminates senior ISIS commander

ISIS commander Abu al-Umarayn, who was involved in beheading of US citizen Peter Kassig, eliminated in air strike in southeastern Syria.

Elad Benari ,

ISIS flag
ISIS flag

A senior Islamic State (ISIS) commander was killed in an air strike in southeastern Syria on Sunday, the US military said, according to The Washington Post.

Col. Sean Ryan, a US military spokesman, identified the ISIS commander as Abu al-Umarayn and said he was killed in “precision strikes” in a desert area known as Badiya.

Umarayn was involved in the execution of US hostage Peter Kassig in 2014. ISIS at the time had disseminated the video showing Kassig's decapitated head after his beheading.

The US-led international coalition had reason to suspect that Umarayn posed an “immediate threat” to coalition forces in the area, Ryan said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

Umarayn was also “involved in the killing of American citizen and former U.S. Army ranger Peter Kassig,” the statement said, and he was linked to or directly involved in executing several other prisoners, according to The Washington Post.

Kassig, who changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig after he converted to Islam while in ISIS captivity, was executed at some point in November 2014, a year after he was taken hostage in Syria.

His captors released a video showing his decapitated head beside his body but did not include scenes of the execution, unlike with the other hostages they killed.

Umarayn is the first Islamic State figure to be publicly identified as having been involved in Kassig’s execution. He is also the first identified as having been killed in an airstrike since the US-led coalition targeted Mohammed Emwazi, who was known as “Jihadi John,” in November 2015.

Emwazi was the ringleader of a group of four Islamic State fighters nicknamed “The Beatles” by their captives.

“Jihadi John” was seen in ISIS videos showing the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Allan Henning, and Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

The US military did not say how they knew Umarayn was involved in Kassig’s killing or what role he may have played. He was with several other Islamic State members when the strikes were carried out, Ryan said, according to The Washington Post.