The US has killed four mid-level Islamic State commanders in airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria since the beginning of December 2016, the military announced over the past week. The Islamic State commanders were involved in military, suicide, chemical, and financial operations, according to the US military.
Colonel John Dorrian, the Spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, announced the deaths of Imad Abdullah Hamud al Mahallawi, Abu Turk, and Falah al Rashidi at a press conference yesterday. US Central Command issued a statement on the killing of Abu Jandal al Kuwaiti on Dec. 29.
The US killed both al Rashidi and Abu Turk in separate airstrikes on Dec. 4, 2016. Al Rashidi was “was involved in ISIL’s [Islamic State] use of VBIEDs,” or suicide car bombs, in the city of Mosul, where the Islamic State is under assault from Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Kurdish Peshmerga. The suicide bomb has been one of the Islamic State’s most effective weapons in Mosul, and Coalition aircraft have launched numerous airstrikes against suicide bombs and factories. The group claims to have used 220 “martyrdom operations” during the first 10 weeks of its defense of Mosul; this accounts for 20 percent of the claimed 1,112 suicide operations claimed in Iraq and Syria, during 2016. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State claims historically high number of suicide attacks in 2016.]
Dorrian described Abu Turk as an Islamic State “financial facilitator in Qanfusah, Iraq, who had connections to ISIL leaders and facilitated funds to the group.” He was killed during fighting in the Iraqi city of Sharqat just south of Mosul, which was recently wrested from the Islamic State.
Al Mahallawi, a “legacy al Qaeda Iraq member serving as an ISIL leader in Al Qaim,” was killed on Dec. 21, 2016 in an airstrike in Al Qaim, the western Iraqi town on the border with Syria where he commands troops. The Islamic State controls Al Qaim and the towns along the Euphrates River Valley up to Anah. Dorrian described al Mahallawi’s death as “significant because as ISIL continues to lose population centers, they want to transition towards spoiler attacks in the outlying areas of Iraq and Syria.”
Al Kuwaiti, who was killed near the Tabqa Dam in Syria, was described as “an ISIL gang leader in Raqqah” who previously served as a member of the Islamic State’s “War Committee,” which is tasked with directing the group’s offensive and defensive military operations in Iraq and Syria. Al Kuwaiti was involved in the Islamic State’s December 2016 recapture of the Syrian city of Palmyra.
“Abu Jandal was involved in the use of suicide vehicles, IEDs and chemical weapons against the SDF,” or Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of rebel groups and militias that is attempting to drive the Islamic State from its strongholds in northern Syria, including Raqqah. He was “reassigned to Tabqa to try to improve ISIL’s defenses” against the SDF.
The US military has targeted senior and mid-level Islamic State leaders, external operations planners, and military commanders while also striking the groups military and civilian infrastructure throughout Iraq and Syria in an effort to deny the group territory and deal it a “lasting defeat.” Among the most important leaders killed in 2016 include Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the group’s top spokesman and external operations leader; Abu Omar al Shishani, the Islamic State’s war minister; Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, the information minister and central shura member; and Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, the emir of the Middle East external networks.