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Immediate Release

Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Syria Airstrike

March 8, 2016

A U.S. airstrike on March 4, near al Shaddadi, Syria, targeted senior ISIL leader Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, also known as Abu Umar al-Shishani, and "Omar the Chechen."  Batirashvili was a Syrian-based Georgian national who held numerous top military positions within ISIL, including minister of war.   He is an ISIL senior commander and Shura Council member based in Ar-Raqqah, Syria and was identified as a military commander in a public video distributed by ISIL.  At the time of this strike, Batirashvili had been sent to al Shaddadi to bolster ISIL fighters following a series of strategic defeats by local forces we are supporting, cutting off ISIL operations near the Syria-Iraq border.  DOD is still assessing the results of this operation. 

Batirashvili is a battle-tested leader with experience who had led ISIL fighters in numerous engagements in Iraq and Syria. His potential removal from the battlefield would negatively impact ISIL's ability to recruit foreign fighters - especially those from Chechnya and the Caucasus regions -- and degrade ISIL's ability to coordinate attacks and defense of its strongholds like Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq.

The U.S. Treasury Department designated Batirashvili as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224 for action for or on behalf of ISIL.