Islamic State chief in Iraq's Anbar killed, says Pentagon
A US-led coalition airstrike has killed a senior Islamic State leader in Iraq's Anbar province, along with three other IS jihadists, the Pentagon said Monday.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the 6 May strike near the town of Rutba - deep in the Anbar desert - targeted Shakir Waheeb, IS's "military emir" for the vast western province.
Waheeb was "a former member of al-Qaeda in Iraq who has appeared in ISIL execution videos," Cook said, using another acronym for the IS group.
"We view him as a significant leader in ISIL leadership overall, not just in Anbar Province," he added. "Removing him from the battlefield will be a significant step forward."
The men were traveling in a vehicle when they were hit. Cook provided no additional details and did not specify if a warplane or a drone had carried out the strike.
Monday's announcement of Waheeb's death is the fourth of its kind, as Iraqi forces have declared him dead on three earlier occasions.
Major Hussam al-Saadi, a general in the Iraqi army's Anbar operational command told The New Arab that IS fighters in the area seemed to be disorientated after the strike, which indicates the death of their leader.
"Waheeb's death will weaken the group's ability in Anbar, due to the position he occupies within IS and the fact that he's one of their senior commanders," said al-Saadi.
The killing of Waheeb is the latest in a series of attacks on senior IS leaders in Iraq and Syria, where the jihadists still control huge tracts of land despite an intense US-led air campaign dating back to August 2014.
Some other recent targets include Suleiman Abd Shabib al-Jabouri, an "ISIL war council member," Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli - the IS group's second-in-command also known as Haji Imam - and Abu Omar al-Shishani, the man known as "Omar the Chechen," who was effectively IS's defense minister.
In February, US special operations forces captured Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar, also known as Abu Dawud, who was described as a chemical weapons expert.
"Since the start of 2015, we've targeted and killed more than 40 high-value ISIL and al-Qaeda external attack plotters. We have removed cell leaders, facilitators, planners and recruiters," Baghdad-based military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren wrote online last week.
Despite many significant coalition gains against the IS group, the jihadists still control the key cities of Raqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, and assaults to recapture the towns are not expected for months.
Agencies contributed to this report.