The White House revealed on Aug. 21 that the second in command of the Islamic State group was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this week.
“Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz ... was killed in a U.S. military airstrike on Aug. 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an (Islamic State) media operative known as Abu Abdullah,” Ned Price, White House spokesman, said in a statement.
The leader was heavily involved in moving weaponry, people and vehicles between Iraq and Syria. He also reportedly played a leading role in the Islamic State offensive to capture Mosul.
“Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact (Islamic State's) operations given that his influence spanned (Islamic State's) finance, media, operations and logistics,” Price added.
Seth Jones, a former Pentagon official, cautioned against attaching too much importance to the death of al-Hayali.
“My experience in looking at the Islamic State suggests they have demonstrated an ability to move people up into positions” following the death of high-ranking members, Jones, who now works with the Rand Corporation, said.
“The U.S. has dealt a severe blow to Islamic State’s top leadership, taking out its most consistently senior deputy and a known operationally involved commander and strategist,” Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. officials also confirmed that reports last December that al-Hayali had been killed in an airstrike were inaccurate.
According to Daily Mail, he was formerly a lieutenant colonel in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s special forces, before serving time in a U.S. military prison in Iraq.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the targeting of al-Hayali may indicate that the U.S. has been able to obtain reliable intelligence on the inner workings of Islamic State, which remains a secretive organization.
“The U.S. 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,” Price added in his statement.