Islamic State says senior commander al-Shishani killed in Iraq
Omar al-Shishani – known as Omar the Chechen – was announced dead "in the town of Sharqat as he took part in repelling the military campaign on the city of Mosul", Amaq said, quoting a "military source".
In March, the US Pentagon said US air raids in northeastern Syria had killed the militant commander, however the news was not confirmed by the Islamic State group.
Al-Shishani, who donned a notorious thick red beard, was believed to be a fierce, battle-hardened warlord with roots in Georgia and was one of the most wanted amongst the rank of IS leadership, with Washington placing a $5million bounty on his head.
His exact rank was unclear, but a US official had branded him as "equivalent of the secretary of defence" for the militant group.
Shishani hailed from the former Soviet state of Georgia's Pankisi Gorge region, which is populated mainly by ethnic Chechens and fought as a Chechen rebel against Russian forces before joining the Georgian military in 2006.
He fought Russian forces again in Georgia in 2008 before resurfacing in northern Syria as the commander of a group of foreign fighters – quickly becoming a senior leader within IS.
Details of his death were not published by IS, however the loss of the commander is said to be another major blow to the group amid a string of setbacks this year.
A large-scale operation to drive out IS militants was recently launched by US-backed Iraqi forces, with several victories being marked in the run-up to the much anticipated recapture of Mosul.
However, Sharqat – where al-Shishani was reportedly killed – was bypassed despite lying on the road north to the IS-bastion city of Mosul.
Last week, Iraqi troops recaptured a strategic military base in the Qayyarah area that is expected to be the launchpad for the operation against IS in Mosul.
IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but has since lost significant ground to Iraqi forces backed by US-led airstrikes, training and other assistance.
The Sunni extremist group has responded to the battlefield setbacks by striking civilians, particularly Shias, and experts have warned there may be more bombings as the militants continue to lose ground.