ISIS' second-in-command killed in raid - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

ISIS' second-in-command killed in raid

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BY RICHARD ENGEL, JIM MIKLASZEWSKI and COURTNEY KUBE, NBC News

(NBC News) - ISIS' second in command was killed during an operation this month, defense officials announced Friday, a major score for the U.S.-led coalition as it tries to erode the terror group's grip on the region.

In addition to the death of Haji Imam this month, the Pentagon confirmed the killing of another top leader — Omar al-Shishani — in an earlier raid.

"Striking leadership is necessary, but it's far from efficient," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at a news conference, adding that the U.S. is "systematically eliminating" ISIS' cabinet.

"Leaders can be replaced, however, these leaders have been around for a long time," Carter said. "They are senior. They're experienced. So eliminating them is an important objective and achieves an important result."

Carter declined to provide further details about the operations, and didn't immediately confirm where and when exactly the efforts to kill Haji Imam took place.

Haji Imam — whose real name is Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli — was the finance minister who oversaw and steered ISIS' funding through its networks, Carter said. He also reportedly managed the day to day operations for ISIS and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and was also the main link to shadowy ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who currently has minimal communication to the organization.

The deaths of Imam and al-Shishani present a key gain in ticking off some of the biggest names on the U.S.'s terror hit list.

Intelligence sources previously told NBC News that the operation to take out al-Shishani — nicknamed Omar the Chechen, known for his red -tinged beard — occurred near the town of Shaddadi, which was seized by Syrian rebels from ISIS last month.

The State Department had put a bounty of up to $7 million for Iraqi-born al-Qaduli, who officials said had reintegrated himself into ISIS in Syria following his release from prison in 2012. He had also ascended the ranks of al Qaeda after joining in 2004, and was under the command of leader Abu Musab al-Zarqaei, who was killed in 2006.

Al-Qaduli was previously reported to have been killed last year during an airstrike on a mosque.

According to reports, he is a former Iraqi physics teacher who had emerged as ISIS' temporary leader and No. 2 after al-Baghdadi was supposedly wounded in coalition bombing. 

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