National Security Council officials announced on Friday that an American drone strike killed top ISIS leader Haji Mutazz. The United States and its allies stage daily air strikes on Islamic State targets in the group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. A drone strike last month killed a senior Islamic State leader in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. The Obama administration also confirmed the death of the ISIS leader.
Mutazz was killed in the Aug. 18 strike while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, the White House said. Also killed was an ISIS media operative known as Abu Abdullah. Mutazz, also known as Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, was senior deputy to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and a primary coordinator for moving weapons, vehicles and explosives between Iraq and Syria. Mutazz was instrumental in a number of military operations, including the ISIS offensive in Mosul in June 2014. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price says Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali was travelling in a vehicle near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when he was killed Tuesday. The information about the drone strike this week is being very closely held by the government because of its sensitivity.
As the senior deputy to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Hayali was the primary co-ordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives, vehicles and people between Iraq and Syria. Price characterized Al-Hayali’s death as a blow to Islamic State operations because his influence spanned finance, media, operations and logistics for the group. Also killed in the air strike was an Islamic State media operative known as Abu Abdullah. The White House issued a statement. “Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics, ”The United States and its coalition partners are determined to degrade and destroy this terrorist group which has wrought so much harm and suffering on the people of the region and beyond.” CNN says the strike was based on “actionable intelligence,” meaning the Pentagon knew Mutazz was in a particular area at a particular time. That type of information suggests the United States has some ability to target and strike some of the most senior officials in ISIS.
Top U.S. military officials also confirmed on Friday that tests show traces of chemical agent mustard gas on mortars used to attack Kurdish forces in Iraq. U.S. Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, chief of staff for the military operations in Iraq and Syria, says the field testing is not conclusive, so final tests are underway to get the full make-up of the chemicals on the fragments. Killea told Pentagon reporters on Friday that Kurdish forces brought the mortar fragments to U.S. forces for testing, so there may be questions about the chain of custody of the evidence.