Russia says kills 180 militants, mercenaries in Syria, claims al-Shishani´s death
MOSCOW: Some 120 Daesh fighters and 60 foreign mercenaries were killed in a series of Russian air strikes in Syria over the past 24 hours, the defence ministry in Moscow said on Saturday.
The ministry also said three senior Daesh commanders including Omar al-Shishani had been confirmed dead as a result of an earlier Russian strike.
“A command post of the terrorists and up to 80 (Daesh) fighters including nine natives of the Northern Caucasus were destroyed in the area of Mayadeen,” the ministry said, adding that another 40 Daesh fighters were killed around the town of Albu Kamal.
Mayadeen is one of the Daesh’s last bastions in Syria.
In another air strike, more than 60 foreign mercenaries from the former Soviet Union, Tunisia, and Egypt were killed in the Euphrates Valley south of Deir Ezzor.
The ministry said “large numbers of foreign mercenaries” were coming into the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal from Iraq.
It also said Russian forces had killed senior Daesh commanders Omar al-Shishani, Alaa al-din al-Shishani and Salah al-Din al-Shishani, all natives of the Northern Caucasus.
Moscow reported their deaths after taking “several days” to confirm the results of an earlier strike on the northern outskirts of Albu Kamal which destroyed an IS command post with more than 30 fighters including the natives of the Northern Caucasus.
‘Omar the Chechen’
The Pentagon announced in March 2016 that American forces had killed Shishani, one of the most notorious faces of Daesh known for his thick red beard.
Shishani, whose nom de guerre means “Omar the Chechen,” came from the former Soviet state of Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge region, which is populated mainly by ethnic Chechens.
He fought as a Chechen rebel against Russian forces before joining the Georgian military in 2006, and fought Russian forces again in Georgia in 2008.
He later resurfaced in northern Syria as the commander of a group of foreign fighters and became a senior leader within Daesh.
The Russian defence ministry was not immediately available for further comment.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, disagreed with Moscow’s report.
“Salah al-Din al-Shishani is still alive and is somewhere in the regions controlled by militant groups in the west of Aleppo province. He is a famous commander, and his militant group is allied with the militants of the Al-Nusra front but only in their fight against the regime,” he said.
“He has no links with IS.”
The advances against Daesh in Deir Ezzor have resulted in a heavy civilian death toll through Russian and coalition air raids.
Moscow has been staging air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both Daesh in Deir Ezzor province and rival militantss led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.