AUG. 21, 2015
Airstrike Kills a Deputy to ISIS Leader, U.S. Says
By HELENE COOPER and RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
WASHINGTON -- A deputy to the leader of the Islamic State was killed in an American airstrike in Iraq this week, the White House announced Friday.
The militant, Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, was killed on Tuesday while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, according to a statement from the National Security Council.  The Obama administration described Mr. Hayali as the Islamic State's "Baghdad military emir and the emir of Ninawa Province."
Mr. Hayali has been declared dead before, including as recently as December 2014. "This time we are 100 percent certain," said a senior official with the American-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State. "We have multiple confirmations he was in the car at the moment of the strike."
An Islamic State media operative known as Abu Abdullah was also killed in the airstrike, officials said.
The administration said that Mr. Hayali was a member of the Islamic State's shura council, or cabinet, and was the senior deputy to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was a primary coordinator for moving large amounts of explosives, weapons, vehicles and people between Iraq and Syria, the administration said, and he supported Islamic State operations in both countries.
Coalition officials said that on Aug. 3, 2014, Mr. Hayali led an offensive on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq, the traditional home of the Yazidi religious minority.
The killing of Mr. Hayali -- who a Defense Department official said helped plan the group's successful offensive in Mosul last June -- struck a blow to the Islamic State's operations, the administration said, "given that his influence spanned ISIL's finance, media, operations and logistics." ISIL is an acronym for the Islamic State.
The United States and its coalition partners have for months been conducting airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, where the Islamic State has taken control of a number of cities and towns like Mosul and Ramadi, American war planes have targeted senior leaders as part of what the White House calls its effort to "degrade and destroy" the militant group.
Since the airstrikes began last year, the United States military has killed several of Mr. Baghdadi's deputies, including the militant group's conduit for outreach to extremists in North Africa and a middle-level Islamic State leader who Pentagon officials described as the group's "emir of oil and gas."
After most of the targeted killings, however, the operatives have been replaced fairly quickly, and Pentagon officials acknowledged that that would probably be the case again. "This is not Baghdadi," one Defense Department official said. Counterterrorism experts said that the Islamic State had created an organic structure that inures it to the death of any single leader.
Like several other Islamic State leaders, Mr. Hayali served in the military of Saddam Hussein, and was purged after the United States-led invasion, according to Will McCants, a scholar of militant Islam at the Brookings Institution. Mr. Hayali later joined Al Qaeda in Iraq, and was arrested and incarcerated at Camp Bucca in Iraq, where Mr. Baghdadi, the self-described caliph of the Islamic State, was also detained.
Mr. Hayali "rose through the Islamic State's ranks with Baghdadi, so the caliph has lost a capable and trusted lieutenant, if the report of his death is true," Mr. McCants said in an email.
Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Rukmini Callimachi from Erbil, Iraq.