ISIS flag (illustration)
ISIS flag (illustration) Reuters

The Pentagon acknowledged on Thursday that it targeted top Islamic State (ISIS) group commander Omar al-Shishani, but stopped short of confirming his reported death.

ISIS itself had announced Wednesday that Shishani, whose nom de guerre means Omar the Chechen, had been killed.

The Pentagon had already claimed in early March that coalition forces had killed the high-profile rebel leader, though it was later reported that he was alive but was “clinically dead”.

On Thursday, Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook said the latest strike had been conducted on Sunday and had targeted a leadership meeting near Mosul in Iraq.

"We believe that Omar Shishani was present" with 16 other Islamic State group leaders, he told reporters.

"We believe this was a successful strike but we are not in a position to be able to confirm that he was killed," Cook added.

News of Shishani's death had been carried Wednesday by Amaq, a news service linked to ISIS .

The report did not say when or how he had been killed, simply stating that he died in Shirqat while defending Mosul, the principal city held by the group in Iraq.

Cook acknowledged that American officials had until recently believed Shishani to be dead. But defense officials learned that he was present at the meeting and decided to strike again.

A man in his thirties distinguished by a thick red beard and known as a hardened fighter, Shishani had been in the crosshairs of American officials who portrayed him as an experienced warlord and a kind of minister of defense within the Islamic State group.

The United States had put a $5 million bounty on his head.

A biography produced by an Islamic State group sympathizer and published on the internet described him as an undefeated strategist.

AFP contributed to this report.

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