One of the Islamic State’s top leaders in Iraq’s Anbar province was killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, the Pentagon said Monday.
Abu Wahib, the “military emir” of Anbar, and three other Islamic State members were killed May 6 while traveling in a vehicle near the town of Rutbah in western Iraq, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
“ISIL leadership has been hit hard by coalition efforts and this is another example of that,” Cook told reporters, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “It is dangerous to be an ISIL leader in Iraq and Syria these days and for good reason.”
Wahib was a legacy member of the Islamic State. He started out with the group’s earlier iteration, al-Qaeda in Iraq, before being detained by U.S. forces in the mid-2000s. He was transferred to an Iraqi prison after the U.S. withdrawal in 2011 and was broken out shortly after.
His death, like many other Islamic State leaders, has been falsely reported before. Earlier this year, for instance, Wahib was believed to have been killed in an airstrike near the town of Hit during pitched fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters there.
If true, the U.S. strike ended the career of one of the most colorful, and most brutal, commanders in the Islamic State. Media-savvy and obsessively image-conscious, Wahib gained notoriety through a series of self-made videos that promoted his fighting prowess while showcasing his cold-bloodedness.
A former Iraqi computer programmer believed to be about 30, he styled himself after one of the Islamic State’s founding figures, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who led al-Qaeda in Iraq before being killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006.
Like Zarqawi, Wahib preferred ninja-like black clothing and sported a shaggy mane and beard. Also like Zarqawi — and in contrast with other Islamic State leaders who largely avoid the spotlight — he adored the camera, allowing himself to be depicted showing off martial-arts techniques or firing his weapon.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Joby Warrick