Haji Imam was considered the next in line to succeed Omar al-Baghdadi as "caliph" of the group.
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – The U.S. has killed the Islamic State militant group’s second-in-command, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday.
Haji Imam, also known as Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, served as the Islamic State’s (IS) finance minister and worked in “some foreign affairs,” the Pentagon said.
He was considered the next in line to succeed Omar al-Baghdadi as “caliph” of the group.
The Defense Department would not say “where and how” Imam was killed, but the Daily Beast broke the story, reporting that U.S. special forces tracked Haji for several days before conducting a raid on his vehicle in Syria.
About 50 special operators from the Joint Special Operations Command are operating throughout northern Syria, assisting local forces and acting unilaterally, officials said,
Imam’s death follows that of IS “minister of war” Omar al-Shishani, otherwise known as Omar the Chechen, earlier this month.
Carter said Friday that the U.S. military is “systematically killing ISIL’s cabinet,” using the government’s preferred term for IS.
Imam’s death reflects a continuation of the Obama administration’s strategy to take out IS leaders, otherwise called “high value individuals” (HVIs) — “drying up their bench.”
“Striking leadership is necessary, but is far from sufficient…leaders can be replaced,” Carter said. “These leaders have been around for a long time, they are senior, they are experienced, so eliminating them is an important objective, and achieves an important result.”
Carter said that the U.S. is “broadening both the nature and the weight” of its anti-IS objective, as supported local forces “continue to gather strength.”
Most recently, the Syrian Democratic Forces retook the town of al-Shadadi, Syria from the militant group — a town the Pentagon has said strategically bisects IS strongholds of Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria.
“The momentum is in our favor, I think there’s a lot of reasons for us to be optimistic about the next several months, but by no means would I say that we’re about to break the back of ISIL, or that the fight is over,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford on Friday, sitting beside Carter during a press briefing from the Pentagon.
Dunford said that while IS has not gained ground in the last several months, it has not precluded them from conducting terror attacks or operations more kin to guerilla operations.
To successfully “degrade and destroy” IS, “as essential as the military aspect is…there’s a critical law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security ingredient to this,” Carter said.