Coalition forces killed 15 senior and mid-level Islamic State leaders and commanders, including two external operations planners, in a series of airstrikes that occurred in eastern Syria and Western Iraq over the past two months.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the international coalition that was assembled to degrade and defeat the Islamic State’s network in Iraq and Syria, announced the deaths of the 15 Islamic State operatives in two separate press releases, one issued on Oct. 31, and another on Nov. 14.
The airstrikes that killed the operatives took place near the towns of Mayadin (eight strikes), Abu Kamal (two), and Al Hadin (one) in eastern Syria, and Al Qaim (four) in Iraq. CJTF-OIR has previously targeted killed numerous Islamic State leaders and operatives in and around Mayadin.
The airstrikes killed two external operations officers, five military officers or commanders, two leaders, two unmanned aircraft systems (drones) operatives, a media official, a weapons developer, a military procurement official, and an administrative official.
The two external operations officers were identified as Omer Demir and Abdellah Hajjiaou. Omer was identified as “an ISIS external operations coordinator with links to ISIS networks in the Middle East and Europe.” Hajjiaou was “an ISIS external operations coordinator” who also had “links to ISIS networks in the Middle East and Europe.”
Omer was killed in Al Qaim on Oct. 26 along with Yusuf Demir, who was “an ISIS media official with links to ISIS networks throughout the Middle East and Europe.” It is unclear if Omer and Yusuf are related.
“The removal of these key terrorists disrupts ISIS’ weapons engineering activities and their ability to recruit and train terrorists,” CJTF-OIR noted. “It also reduces their ability to plan and conduct terrorist attacks both within Syria and Iraq, and abroad.”
While the Coalition has targeted the Islamic State’s leaders and operatives, it has also allowed some to escape. As the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that is dominated by the Kurdistan Workers Party, laid siege to Raqqah, it allowed more than 250 Islamic State leaders and fighters and thousands of family members to leave the city in a convoy. The Islamic State party escaped to areas under its control.
The move may have prevented a deadly street fight in Raqqah, but “it has also meant battle-hardened militants have spread across Syria and further afield – and many of them aren’t done fighting yet,” the BBC, which reported on the incident, noted.
The Islamic State has retreated to areas along the Euphrates River Valley (ERV) in eastern Syrian and western Iraq as the Syrian and Iraqi militaries and their accompanying Shia militias have pressed an offensive. In Syria, the Islamic State has lost control of Deir Ezzor and Mayadin, and is currently struggling to hold Abu Kamal. In Iraq, the Islamic State was ejected from Al Qaim, and only controls a portion of the town of Rawa.
Islamic State leaders killed in Iraq and Syria from Sept. 16 to present:
• Yusuf Demir, an ISIS media official with links to ISIS networks throughout the Middle East and Europe, killed Oct. 26, 2017 near al-Qaim, Iraq.
• Omer Demir, an ISIS external operations coordinator with links to ISIS networks in the Middle East and Europe, killed Oct. 26, 2017 near al-Qaim, Iraq.
• Abu Yazin, an ISIS senior leader and weapons facilitator, killed Nov. 3, 2017 near Mayadin, Syria.
• Abdellah Hajjiaou, an ISIS external operations plotter, killed Nov. 5, 2017 near Abu Kamal, Syria.
• Abu Ahmad al Muhajir, a senior military officer involved in procurement and R&D, killed on Sept. 16, 2017 in Mayadin, Syria.
• Hajji Ibrahim, a senior military officer involved in procurement and R&D, killed Sept. 20, 2017 in Mayadin, Syria.
• Bin Ladin Dhu al Fiqar, a senior military commander, killed Sept. 25, 2017 in Mayadin, Syria.
• Shahin, a ground commander, killed on Sept. 26, 2017 in Mayadin, Syria.
• Abu Walid al Shami, a weapons R&D developer, killed Sept. 29, 2017 in Mayadin, Syria.
• Abu Hajir al-Iraqi, a military procurement official involved in R&D, killed Oct. 2, 2017 in Mayadin, Syria.
• Abu Mahmud al Halabi, in ISIS administrative official, was killed Oct. 3, 2017 near Mayadin, Syria.
• Abu Walid al Qamishli, a commander responsible for a network of fighters in Hasakah Province, killed Oct. 3, 2017 near Al Haidin, Syria.
• Abu Taburak, a UAS [unmanned aircraft systems, or drones] researcher and developer, killed Oct. 7, 2017 in Al Qaim, Iraq.
• Abu Asia, a UAS facilitator, killed on Oct. 9, 2017 in Abu Kamal, Syria.
• Abu Suhayb, an ISIS leader, was killed Oct. 12, 2017 in Al Qaim, Iraq.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.