Omar al-Shishani

Tarkhan Batirashvili—known by his alias ‘Omar al-Shishani’—was ISIS’s deputy leader and overall military commander before he was reported killed during combat in July 2016.Stephen Kalin, “Islamic State says ‘minister of war’ Shishani killed,” Reuters, July 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/. The United States has not confirmed al-Shishani’s death.Stephen Kalin, “Islamic State says ‘minister of war’ Shishani killed,” Reuters, July 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/.

For years, al-Shishani—a former sergeant in the Georgian Army—was one of ISIS’s most senior military commanders, a member of the group’s elite Shura Council, and overall commander of its armies.Stephen Kalin, “Islamic State says ‘minister of war’ Shishani killed,” Reuters, July 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/. According to the U.S. Pentagon, al-Shishani was ISIS’s “minister of war.”Stephen Kalin, “Islamic State says ‘minister of war’ Shishani killed,” Reuters, July 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/. Al-Shishani was also the reported “mastermind” behind ISIS’s swift gains in Iraq’s Anbar province in the fall of 2014, where he reportedly led a force of some 1,000 Russian-speaking fighters.Stephen Kalin, “Islamic State says ‘minister of war’ Shishani killed,” Reuters, July 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/.

Reportedly born to a Christian father and an ethnic Chechen Muslim mother, al-Shishani grew up as a shepherd boy, allegedly watching rebel fighters pass by his hometown in the Pankisi Gorge.“Hundreds Of Chechens Join ISIS, Including Group's No. 2 Leader,” NPR, September 5, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/09/05/345997449/hundreds-of-chechens-join-isis-including-group-s-no-2-leader. After high school, al-Shishani joined the army, where he served in the intelligence unit and received training from the United States on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, eventually becoming a sergeant.“Hundreds Of Chechens Join ISIS, Including Group's No. 2 Leader,” NPR, September 5, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/09/05/345997449/hundreds-of-chechens-join-isis-including-group-s-no-2-leader;
Michael Winfrey, “How Islamic State Grooms Chechen Fighters Against Putin,” Bloomberg, October 9, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-08/how-islamic-state-grooms-chechen-fighters-against-putin;
Mohanad Hage Ali, “Meet ISIS’ new breed of Chechen militants,” Al-Arabiya, August 31, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2014/08/31/Meet-ISIS-new-breed-of-Chechen-Militants-.html.
In 2010, al-Shishani was diagnosed with tuberculosis and dismissed from the army. He was arrested later that year for illegally storing weapons, and sentenced to three years in prison.“Hundreds Of Chechens Join ISIS, Including Group's No. 2 Leader,” NPR, September 5, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/09/05/345997449/hundreds-of-chechens-join-isis-including-group-s-no-2-leader. According to his father, this is where al-Shishani was radicalized.Michael Winfrey, “How Islamic State Grooms Chechen Fighters Against Putin,” Bloomberg, October 9, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-08/how-islamic-state-grooms-chechen-fighters-against-putin. On another occasion, his father said that al-Shishani was radicalized by his older brother Tamaz.Will Cathcart, Vazha Tavberidz, and Nino Burchuladze, “The Secret Life of an ISIS Warlord,” Daily Beast,October 27, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/27/the-secret-life-of-an-isis-warlord.html.

Al-Shishani moved to Syria in March 2012. There, he led a rebel brigade of Chechen fighters aligned with the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s formal affiliate in Syria. In March 2013, al-Shishani's group merged with other jihadists to form a larger and more structured group called Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters).Duncan Gardham, “EXCLUSIVE: Grinning ISIS commander who recruits jihadis from Home Counties taunts Britain 'from beyond the grave',” Daily Mail, November 18, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2839307/Grinning-ISIS-commander-recruits-jihadis-Home-Counties-taunts-Britain-grave.html#ixzz3S6jRwlkS. Al-Shishani served as the commander.“Treasury Designates Twelve Foreign Terrorist Fighter Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 24, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2651.aspx.

In May 2013, al-Shishani and some of his followers from Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar pledged allegiance to ISIS. Al-Shishani was appointed ISIS’s northern commander, overseeing military operations in Aleppo, Raqqa, Latakia, and northern Idlib province. By late 2013, al-Shishani was known as the emir (leader) of northern Syria, and in charge of the group’s fighters from Chechnya and the Caucasus.“Treasury Designates Twelve Foreign Terrorist Fighter Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 24, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2651.aspx. According to his father, al-Shishani has threatened Russia, saying that one day he would “come home and show the Russians,” and that he has “many thousands following” him.Michael Winfrey, “How Islamic State Grooms Chechen Fighters Against Putin,” Bloomberg, October 9, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-10-08/how-islamic-state-grooms-chechen-fighters-against-putin.

Al-Shishani was falsely reported killed multiple times, including in a March 2016 U.S. airstrike.Michael Kaplan, “Chechen ISIS Fighter Dead? Abu Omar Al-Shishani, Top Islamic State Commander, May Have Been Killed By US Airstrike,” International Business Times, March 8, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/chechen-isis-fighter-dead-abu-omar-al-shishani-top-islamic-state-commander-may-have-2332626; Barbara Starr, “U.S. assesses ISIS operative Omar al-Shishani is dead,” CNN, March 15, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/14/politics/u-s-confirms-death-of-isis-operative-omar-al-shishani/. In July 2016, ISIS’s Amaq news agency reported that al-Shishani was killed during combat in Shirqat, Iraq, though the U.S. did not confirm al-Shishani’s death.Stephen Kalin, “Islamic State says ‘minister of war’ Shishani killed,” Reuters, July 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/>http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/isis-omar-al-shishani/".

United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224) on September 24, 2014.“Treasury Designates Twelve Foreign Terrorist Fighter Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 24, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2651.aspx.

European Union

The European Union designated Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili as a Natural Person on February 3, 2015.“Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/167 of 3 February 2015 amending for the 225th time Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities associated with the Al Qaida network,” EUR-Lex, February 4, 2015, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ:JOL_2015_028_R_0003.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom designated Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili as a Person associated with Al-Qaida on February 4, 2015.“Financial Sanctions Notice,” HM Treasury, February 4, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401364/AQ_Notice_4_new_individuals.pdf.

United Nations

The United Nations added Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili to the Al-Qaida Sanctions List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 2083 (2012) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations on January 23, 2015.“Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee Adds Four Names to Its Sanctions List,” United Nations, January 23, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc11750.doc.htm.

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