A key leader of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq’s Anbar province has been killed in a US-led coalition air strike, the Pentagon says.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Abu Waheeb and three others died when their vehicle was hit on 6 May near Rutba. “It is dangerous to be an Isil leader in Iraq and Syria nowadays,” Mr Cook added, using an acronym based on the former name of IS.
Abu Waheeb has falsely been declared dead on several previous occasions. The Pentagon described Abu Waheeb, who is also known as Shakir Waheeb, as the IS “military emir for Anbar”.
The jihadist group seized control of much of the predominantly Sunni Arab western province, Iraq’s largest, in 2014.
Born in 1986 and a former computer science student, Abu Waheeb was often described on monitoring sites as a rising star among IS. A former member of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a precursor of IS, he was arrested by US forces in Iraq in 2006 and sentenced to death but escaped from prison in 2012.
The following year, he gained notoriety for killing a group of Syrian lorry drivers travelling through Iraq. “We view him as a significant leader in Isil leadership overall, not just in Anbar province,” Mr Cook said. “Removing him from the battlefield will be a significant step forward.”
Abu Waheeb is the latest in a series of senior IS leaders reported to have been killed in US air strikes and special forces operations. Other targets include Abdul Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, an Iraqi known as Hajji Imam who was the group’s purported second-in-command, and Tarkhan Batirashvili, a Georgian known as Omar al-Shishani who was the “minister of war”. Despite the coalition campaign, IS still controls large swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria, where it proclaimed the formation of a “caliphate” in 2014.