Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi

Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi was an Iraqi commander for ISIS. Al-Issawi, who was considered the group’s most senior leader in Iraq as well as the organization’s “deputy caliph,” is believed to have coordinated ISIS’s operations and directed members in Iraq.Tal Axelrod, “Top ISIS leader in Iraq killed in US airstrike,” The Hill, January 29, 2021, https://thehill.com/policy/defense/536580-top-isis-leader-in-iraq-killed-in-us-airstrike?rl=1; David Rose, “RAF jets wipe out Isis terror cells in laser-guided bomb raid north of Baghdad,” The Times, February 1, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/raf-jets-wipe-out-isis-terror-cells-in-laser-guided-bomb-raid-north-of-baghdad-7zgh9cfw8; “Senior Islamic State figure killed in Iraq, PM says,” Reuters, January 28, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-islamic-state-idUSKBN29X2DL. On January 28, 2021, al-Issawi and nine other ISIS militants were killed in a U.S. airstrike in a joint mission with Iraqi forces in Kirkuk.Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan, “U.S. Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Iraq,” New York Times, January 29, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/world/middleeast/us-airstrike-kills-top-isis-leader-in-iraq.html.

Al-Issawi, ISIS’s Iraq “wali” or governor, allegedly served as the liaison between higher and lower ranks in the organization.“Iraqi premier says top Islamic State figure killed by security forces,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iraqi-premier-says-top-islamic-state-figure-killed-by-security-forces/; Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan, “U.S. Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Iraq,” New York Times, January 29, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/world/middleeast/us-airstrike-kills-top-isis-leader-in-iraq.html. Highly educated in Quranic studies, al-Issawi held a radical interpretation of the practice, believing anyone who treated “infidels” as Muslims would be considered an “infidel” as well.“Prominent Islamic State leaders killed in Iraq,” Al Monitor, March 1, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/03/iraq-security-isis-tarmiya.html. Al-Issawi allegedly had a background in fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria before advancing to his role as commander and deputy caliph in Iraq.“Islamic State ‘Wali’ Abu Yasser al-Issawi Killed in Iraq: Prime Minister,” Defense Post, January 29, 2021, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2021/01/29/is-al-issawi-killed-iraq/. According to media reports, al-Issawi allegedly began fighting in the Iraqi insurgency following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Additionally, al-Issawi was allegedly imprisoned in Camp Bucca—an American-controlled prison camp that held many well-known insurgents who would eventually form ISIS.Ghassan Adnan and Jared Malsin, “Top Islamic State Leader in Iraq Killed in U.S.-Iraqi Strike,” Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/top-islamic-state-leader-in-iraq-killed-in-u-s-iraqi-strike-11611938069. The exact date of his imprisonment has not been reported, but it is assumed his detainment would have occurred at some point between 2003 and 2009 when the camp was in operation.Michael Christie, “U.S. military shuts largest detainee camp in Iraq,” Reuters, September 17, 2009, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-usa-detainees/u-s-military-shuts-largest-detainee-camp-in-iraq-idUSTRE58G1HZ20090917.

As commander and deputy caliph, al-Issawi directed gun and bomb attacks against military and civilian targets in Iraq.David Rose, “RAF jets wipe out Isis terror cells in laser-guided bomb raid north of Baghdad,” The Times, February 1, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/raf-jets-wipe-out-isis-terror-cells-in-laser-guided-bomb-raid-north-of-baghdad-7zgh9cfw8. Although ISIS no longer controls a defined area in Iraq, the country continues to be ISIS’s largest operational branch, with al-Issawi having played a pivotal role in facilitating ISIS’s activity and coordinating attacks in the region.Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan, “U.S. Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Iraq,” New York Times, January 29, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/world/middleeast/us-airstrike-kills-top-isis-leader-in-iraq.html.

Al-Issawi reportedly supervised more than 200 battles between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces in Fallujah, al-Karma, al-Khalidiyah, and Qaim along the Iraqi-Syrian border. Furthermore, al-Issawi was involved in the execution of 18 Kurdish peshmerga officers.“Prominent Islamic State leaders killed in Iraq,” Al Monitor, March 1, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/03/iraq-security-isis-tarmiya.html. Additionally, al-Issawi was reportedly known for targeting tribes in western Anbar, such as the Jughayfa and the Albu Nimr—a tribe that was subjected to an ISIS-led massacre that killed 322 of the Albu Nimr in 2014. The tribe, which actively resisted ISIS’s advances, succumbed to the jihadist group’s attacks when the tribe finally ran low on ammunition, food, and fuel.“Prominent Islamic State leaders killed in Iraq,” Al Monitor, March 1, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/03/iraq-security-isis-tarmiya.html; Michael Georgy, “Iraq says 322 tribe members killed, many bodies dumped in well,” Reuters, November 2, 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-idUSKBN0IM0I920141102.

Al-Issawi’s forces also reportedly targeted the Kata’ib al-Hamza, the tribal force of the Albu Mahal Tribe. The al-Qaim-based Kata’ib al-Hamza—which is led by Abu Aya, a former commander of the Anbar SWAT forces—allegedly provided most of the intelligence used by the Iraqi Falcon Intelligence Cell on jihadist activity in the Western Anbar desert area. The Falcon Intelligence Cell, an elite counterterrorism unit created to gather intelligence on al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq, allegedly provided the Iraqi government with vital information to neutralize over 3,500 ISIS insurgents.“Prominent Islamic State leaders killed in Iraq,” Al Monitor, March 1, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/03/iraq-security-isis-tarmiya.html; Shelly Kittleson, “Iraqi spy chief discusses IS and intel cooperation,” Al Monitor, July 31, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/07/iraq-terrorism-syria-isis-falcon.html; Shelly Kittleson, “Islamic State desert bases still headache for Iraq,” Al Monitor, January 23, 2018, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/01/iraq-border-anbar-syria-is.html.

On January 28, 2021, the U.S.-led military coalition, in a joint mission with Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, launched an airstrike that targeted ISIS members in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. The attack killed al-Issawi as well as nine other ISIS fighters.Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan, “U.S. Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Iraq,” New York Times, January 29, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/world/middleeast/us-airstrike-kills-top-isis-leader-in-iraq.html; “Islamic State 'deputy' Yaser al-Issawi killed in Iraq, Iraqi PM says,” ABC News (Australia), January 29, 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-29/islamic-state-yaser-al-issawi-senior-figure-killed-in-iraq/13101814. The intelligence-led operation was allegedly months in the making and sought to eliminate sleeper cells in mountain hideouts that were considered a new center of ISIS operations.David Rose, “RAF jets wipe out Isis terror cells in laser-guided bomb raid north of Baghdad,” The Times, February 1, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/raf-jets-wipe-out-isis-terror-cells-in-laser-guided-bomb-raid-north-of-baghdad-7zgh9cfw8; “Iraqi premier says top Islamic State figure killed by security forces,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iraqi-premier-says-top-islamic-state-figure-killed-by-security-forces/.

The airstrike intended to undermine the resurgence of ISIS in the area, following an ISIS-claimed double suicide bombing that killed over 32 people and injured 110 others in Baghdad on January 21—the deadliest attack to hit the Iraqi capital in over four years.Tal Axelrod, “Top ISIS leader in Iraq killed in US airstrike,” The Hill, January 29, 2021, https://thehill.com/policy/defense/536580-top-isis-leader-in-iraq-killed-in-us-airstrike?rl=1; David Rose, “RAF jets wipe out Isis terror cells in laser-guided bomb raid north of Baghdad,” The Times, February 1, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/raf-jets-wipe-out-isis-terror-cells-in-laser-guided-bomb-raid-north-of-baghdad-7zgh9cfw8.

Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On January 15, 2019, al-Shabaab gunmen stormed an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The attack lasted over 12 hours, killing 22 people and wounding 27 others.   

View Archive

CEP on Twitter