Wanted Islamic State leader reported killed in Syria

The U.S. continues to target high level Islamic State leaders in Syria despite President Trump’s claim that the group has been “defeated.” An Islamic State leader who is wanted by the U.S. for his role in the terror group’s chemical and biological weapons programs is thought to have been killed in a Coalition airstrike in Syria earlier this week.

Also, the U.S. military announced that it killed two other senior Islamic State leaders in a joint raid in Syria two weeks ago.

Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service said that the U.S. led Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) killed Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi, who is better known as Hajji Taysir, in an airstrike in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. Hajji Taysir’s death has not been confirmed by CJTF-OIR or the Islamic State.

“After following up the movements of this dangerous terrorist and his continued movements inside and outside Iraq, he was targeted by an airstrike by the International Coalition against ISIS in the Syrian region of [Deir Ezzor], according to accurate intelligence information by the Counter-Terrorism Service,” the Iraqi agency announced, according to Kurdistan 24.

Hajji Taysir is wanted by the U.S government for his role as a senior leader in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. On Aug. 21, 2019, the US State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced a reward for up to $5 million for Taysir and two other ISIS leaders. [See LWJ report, US announces rewards for 3 Islamic State leaders.]

According to the State Department, Taysir is considered “one of the most important leaders in ISIS.” He serves as “deputy amir of manufacturing in Syria” and oversees the “Research Department for ISIS’s chemical and biological weapons efforts in Syria.”

According to Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, Taysir was also “responsible for planning and coordinating external terrorist operations.”

The unconfirmed report of Taysir’s death was preceded by a joint raid between CJTF-OIR and the Syrian Democratic Forces in Deir Ezzor that killed Ahmad ‘Isa Ismail al-Zawi and Ahmad ‘Abd Muhammad Hasan al-Jughayfi. The exact date of the raid was not disclosed. CJTF-OIR announced the operation on May 17.

Al-Zawi, “also known as Abu Ali al-Baghdadi, was the ISIS Wali [governor] of North Baghdad, CJTF-OIR stated in its press release. “As a regional leader, al-Zawi was responsible for disseminating terrorist guidance from senior ISIS leadership to operatives in North Baghdad.”

 Al-Jughayfi, “also known as Abu Ammar, was a senior ISIS logistics and supplies official responsible for directing the acquisition and transport of weapons, IED materials, and personnel across Iraq and Syria,” CJTF-OIR stated.

The U.S. military continues to target senior and mid-level Islamic State leaders and operatives in Iraq and Syria despite President Donald Trump’s declaration two years ago that ISIS was defeated.

The “military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed,” the White House noted in early April 2018.

Trump repeated this claim in Dec. 2019, when he said “We have defeated ISIS in Syria.”

However, the White House’s declaration of victory was premature. More than two years later, ISIS remains a threat, and continues “to wage a ‘low-level insurgency’ in both Iraq and Syria,” the Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve noted in its quarterly report that was released on May 11.

ISIS “remains unable to hold territory and continues to rely on small-arms attacks,” the report noted. “In Iraq, these attacks were concentrated in mountainous and desert provinces north and west of Baghdad. In Syria, the majority of attacks occurred in [Deir Ezzor], Hasakah, and Raqqah provinces.”

According to the report, ISIS has an estimated “14,000 to 18,000 terrorists between Syria and Iraq.” However, as FDD’s Long War Journal has noted numerous times in the past, these estimates are often inaccurate and usually undercount the number of ISIS fighters. [See LWJ report, On the CIA estimate of number of fighters in the Islamic State.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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