Omar al Shishani, the Islamic State military commander who has led an elite group of fighters in multiple battles in Iraq and Syria, survived last weekend’s airstrike in the Syrian city of Shaddadi, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that Shishani’s convoy was indeed targeted and several of his cadre were killed, but Shishani survived and “was seriously injured.”
“He’s not dead,” Rahman said. “He was taken from the province of Hasakah to a hospital in Raqqah province where he was treated by a jihadist doctor of European origin.”
The US military announced that it targeted Shishani in an airstrike on March 4 in the Syrian city of Shaddadi. But the US military stopped short of declaring Shishani dead. [See LWJ report, US targeted senior Islamic State military commander in airstrike in Syria for more information on the strike and background on Shishani]
It is often difficult to determine whether a jihadist commander was killed or survived an airstrike. Without possession of a body for positive identification, intelligence services must rely on other means to determine his status. Often, the best way to know whether a leader was killed or not is to get confirmation from the jihadists themselves, as they wish to eulogize their leaders. This usually is reliable, but often jihadist groups will delay the notification of the death of their commanders. And, after the Mullah Omar affair, where the Taliban pretended he was alive for more than two years after he died of natural causes, and the gaming of the death of Muhsin al Fadhli by al Qaeda leaders, you cannot rule out the possibility that various groups are obscuring the status of their leaders.