Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society
The activist group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), which works against the Islamic State (IS) in its Syrian capital, published a list on Thursday on Twitter of the eleven “most important” IS leaders who have been killed in Raqqa Province.
Below is RBSS’ list with some additional notes.
October 16, 2015: The Coalition killed Abu Usman al-Libi in an airstrike, according to RBSS. Abu Usman was an important administrator of IS, and an associate of Fathi al-Tunisi (Abu Sayyaf al-Iraqi), the IS “oil minister” who was struck down in an American raid into eastern Syria in May 2015, which yielded much information about IS’s inner-workings.
RBSS lists among the slain Denis Cuspert, known to IS as Abu Talha al-Almani and before that by his rap name “Deso Dogg,” a U.S.-designated global terrorist who played a role in recruiting foreign fighters and organizing external terrorism. Cuspert was said to have been killed on 16 October 2016 by two Coalition airstrikes on a pickup truck in Hunayda, on the road between Raqqa city and al-Tabqa. The Pentagon “confirmed” this to the press soon after and later issued a more formal statement affirming Cuspert’s demise. But on 3 August 2016 the Pentagon said: “It now appears that assessment was incorrect and Denis Cuspert survived the airstrike.” Cuspert is among the IS figures who are repeatedly reported dead, and always seem to survive (the most famous is Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani), whose death was reported eight times before he was actually killed.) German intelligence was always doubtful Cuspert had been eliminated; inter alia his voice was picked up by the BND in an IS video in April and, though it could have been a pre-record, they were convinced otherwise.
November 12, 2015: Mohammed Emwazi (Abu Muharib al-Muhajir), known almost universally in the English-speaking world as “Jihadi John,” was killed in a drone strike on his car in Raqqa city. Emwazi was one of IS’s most recognizable figures, the British zealot who appeared in the series of videos in late 2014 beheading Western hostages. Emwazi played a role in IS’s foreign intelligence, Amn al-Kharji, which directed the wave of terrorist attacks in Europe this summer and which seems to be significantly staffed by Europeans. Additionally, according to a defector, Emwazi held a position in Amn al-Dawla, the internal security of the caliphate. One of the few other Europeans to hold an Amn al-Dawla post was Abdelhamid Abaaoud (Abu Umar al-Baljiki), who was the operational leader of the Paris attacks in November 2015. [Full profile of Emwazi here]
December 7, 2015: Rawand D. Taher (Abu Muhammad al-Kurdi, Abu Mariam al-Kurdistani), a Danish citizen of Iraqi Kurdish origins, was struck down near Raqqa city during a wave of killings by the Coalition of mid-level IS operatives. (RBSS lists Taher as killed on 12 July 2015, and RBSS has previously said that Taher was killed on 7 April 2015. Both appear mistaken.) Taher was listed by the U.S. Defense Department as a “trusted” IS member who “assisted with command and control and handling and transferring money and equipment,” and Taher is believed to have had a role in planning the November 2015 atrocities in Paris.
December 10, 2015: Another one who fell in the December 2015 spree, Siful Haque Sujan was killed in an airstrike near Raqqa city. Sujan was a British-educated computer systems engineer of Bangladeshi origins, an external operations planner for IS, and among those who “supported ISIL hacking efforts, anti-surveillance technology and weapons development,” the Pentagon reported. Sujan’s loss was believed to have been a blow to the links between IS and its external networks. RBSS says Sujan was, at the time of his death, IS’s most important hacker and computers expert, taking over from Junaid Hussain, also a Brit, of Pakistani origins, who had led IS’s hacking and online efforts until he was cut down in a drone strike near a petrol station in Raqqa city on 24 August 2015. Hussain left Britain in 2013 with his wife, the unimprovably-named Sally Jones, who is now herself a designated by the U.S. for inciting terrorism.
April 3, 2016: Abu Zaynab al-Jazrawi, responsible for the transfer of foreign fighters around Syria and abroad, was killed in a Coalition airstrike, according to RBSS.
May 25, 2016: Coalition warplanes killed Omar Dewey in Raqqa city. According to RBSS, Dewey was a man with a responsibility for planning external operations.
August 17, 2016: A Coalition airstrike near al-Shuhada Mosque in Raqqa city killed two Frenchmen, Abu Ibrahim al-Firansi and Abu Musab al-Firansi. RBSS says that Abu Ibrahim and Abu Musab were responsible for overseeing an IS cell planning terrorism in Europe and the West.
August 30, 2016: An aerial attack by the Coalition killed Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), IS’s official spokesman, Syrian governor, member of the Shura Council, head of foreign terrorist operations, and overall second-in-command to Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi). Falaha was not killed actually in Raqqa Province, but just over the provincial border in eastern Aleppo, though he had arrived from Raqqa just a few hours before he was killed near al-Bab. Falaha was one of IS’s oldest members, recruited by the founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), before the Iraq invasion, and, rarely for such a senior position, was a non-Iraqi. [Full profile of Falaha here]
September 7, 2016: Wael al-Fayad (Dr. Wael al-Rawi, Abu Muhammad Furqan) was killed in a Coalition airstrike near Raqqa city. Al-Fayad was a member of the Shura Council and the head of IS’s Media Council, thus its propaganda apparatus; he is sometimes referred to as having been the “information minister”. Al-Fayad worked closely with Falaha, says RBSS, which makes sense organizationally and would help explain their near-simultaneous elimination. [Full profile of al-Fayad here]
Falaha and al-Fayad are among the five most senior people this year. Two others were killed in March: Amr al-Absi (Abu al-Atheer), al-Fayad’s predecessor at the Media Council and Falaha’s as governor of Syria, was killed by a Coalition airstrike in Aleppo, and the caliph’s deputy before Falaha, Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari), was killed in an American raid in Deir Ezzor. The other, Batirashvili, was killed in Iraq in July.