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IS leader Baghdadi's right-hand man 'killed in Iraq'

Iraqi tanks during a counter-IS operation in Anbar province [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2018

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Iraqi military officials say notorious IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's second-in-command was killed in a US-backed military operation on Monday.
A prominent Islamic State leader thought to be Abu Walid al-Checheni was killed during an Iraqi military operation supported by the US air force in Kirkuk in the early hours of Monday morning, just days after two IS attacks killed seven people in the country.

Iraqi military sources from the western Iraqi province, located 250km north of Baghdad, revealed to The New Arab's sister site al-Araby al-Jadeed that a prominent IS chief "of foreign origin" had been killed during a military ambush south of Wadi Hamreen in the early hours of Monday morning.

Latest reports issued by the Iraqi military say that two thirds of IS' leaders from the so-called "first generation" of fighters have been killed over ther past three years by coalition airstrikes and ground-level battles waged by Iraqi forces. 

These campaigns have thrown IS into a leadership crisis as weak and inexperienced members are forced into key roles.

The Iraqi military official in Baghdad told al-Araby al-Jadeed that Iraqi forces carried out an ambush attack targeting some buildings on the outskirts of the village of Sabeel, south of the Horan valley at dawn on Monday, during which the high-ranking IS member along with three companions, were killed. The official added that the slain militant was of non-Arab origin.

The attack follows violent clashes that broke out when the militant refused to surrender and opened fire on Iraqi troops. The group was subsequently dealt with "according to the appropriate rules of engagement", the source said.
Local Iraqi TV reported that an Islamic State chief named Abu Walid al-Checheni, known to be a key ally of Baghdadi, was killed in a special operation

Iraqi forces tracked down the IS leader by monitoring his mobile phone calls, the source added.

He added details of the militant's identity would be announced soon, stressing the American forces provided air support during the operation but did not intervene as there was no need for them to do so.

At the same time, local Iraqi TV reported an Iraqi security official said an Islamic State chief named Abu Walid al-Checheni was killed in a special operation, in which records containing important information were also seized. Checheni is known to be a key ally of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"The deceased fighter was responsible for planning and carrying out terrorist attacks in Kirkuk, which therefore signals the end to terrorist sleeper cells in the Kirkuk region which he funds and directs," the security official was quoted as saying.

It is thought that Monday's operation could lead to the tracking down of Baghdadi.

Northern Iraq has seen a spate of IS attacks in recent days seemingly targeting the upcoming elections. Despite losing the vast majority of its territory to the point where they were declared defeated, the extremist group is keen to put on a show of resurgence in Iraq.

Anbar province in particular has seen a sharp deterioration of its security situation, hit by two IS attacks in 72 hours.

Several people were killed and injured in the village of Haditha when four suicide attackers stormed one of its military neighbourhoods.

Three of the assailants were shot dead at the scene by Iraqi forces. However the fourth attacker exploded his suicide vest, killing two security forces and wounding seven others, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Furthermore, five people were killed and 16 injured when two suicide bombers targeted an election rally in the town of Hit in Anbar province on Saturday evening.

"Two suicide bombers disguised as soldiers entered the al-Hal Party headquarters", one of most prominent parties in the Sunni-majority province of Anbar, a local security official told AFP on the condition of anonymity. 

One of the attackers "detonated his explosive belt while political leaders held a meeting" at the campaign headquarters in Hit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Baghdad, General Qassam al-Mohammadi, head of army operations in the area, told AFP.

Despite initial suspicions that Shia militants were behind the attack, the Islamic State group later claimed responsibility.

Iraqi authorities have subsequently imposed a security crackdown on the region.

The Iraq Report is a weekly feature at The New Arab.

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