A March 4 U.S. airstrike near Shaddadi, Syria, targeted and and wounded senior Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant leader Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, also known as Abu Umar al-Shishani and “Omar the Chechen,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said. He died in a IS-controlled hospital several days later.
12 other Islamic State fighters were killed in the strike and no civilians.
In a statement, Cook said Batirashvili was a Syrian-based Georgian national who held numerous top military positions within ISIL, including minister of war.
He is an ISIL senior commander and Shura Council member based in Raqqah, Syria, Cook said, and he was identified as a military commander in a public video distributed by ISIL. At the time of the strike, Batirashvili had been sent to Shaddadi to bolster ISIL fighters following a series of strategic defeats by local forces the United States is supporting, cutting off ISIL operations near the Syria-Iraq border, he added.
“Batirashvili is a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria,” Cook said. “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.”
Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili (Georgian: თარხან ბათირაშვილი; born January 11, 1986), known by his nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Shishani (Arabic: أبو عمر الشيشاني, Abū ‘Umar ash-Shīshānī , “Abu Omar the Chechen”) or Omar al-Shishani, is a Georgian Kist jihadist who currently serves as a commander for the Islamic State in Syria, and a former sergeant in the Georgian Army.
A veteran of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Batirashvili became a jihadist after being discharged from the Georgian military and served in various command positions with Islamist militant groups fighting in the Syrian civil war. Batirashvili was previously the leader of the rebel group Katibat al-Muhajireen (Emigrants Brigade), also known as the Muhajireen Brigade, and its successor, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters).
In May 2013, Batirashvili was appointed northern commander for ISIL, with authority over ISIL’s military operations and ISIL’s forces in northern Syria, specifically Aleppo, al-Raqqah, Latakia, and northern Idlib Provinces. As of late 2013, he was the ISIL amir (leader) for northern Syria and was located in and around Aleppo Province. He was also in charge of fighters from Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus.
Units under his command have participated in major assaults on Syrian military bases in and around Aleppo, including the capture of Menagh Airbase in August 2013. He is considered “one of the most influential military leaders of the Syrian opposition forces”.As of mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member based in al-Raqqah, Syria.
The US Treasury Department added Batirashvili to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on 24 September 2014. On 5 May 2015, The U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced a reward up to US$5 million for information leading to his capture.
As of 2016, Abu Omar leads the special battalions of the Islamic State, in particular a unit named as ‘the group of the central directorate’ which appears to be the primary special forces strike force of the Islamic State.