AN ELITE commander of Islamic insurgent group Daesh, Abu Omar al-Shishani, known as Omar the Chechen, has been confirmed killed by Pentagon officials following a US military strike in north-eastern Syria on March 4.
As notorious for his long ginger beard as his brutality and highly regarded military leadership, the 30-year-old from Georgia has featured prominently in the organisation’s media releases and was a figurehead for the movement’s foreign fighter contingent.
Born Tarkhan Batirashvili, the fighter hailed from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, a wild Chechen dominated region of the mountainous country that has seen many of its young men convert to Islam and join the war in Syria and Iraq.
After a stint in the Georgian army where he fought the Russians in a brief 2008 war, Shishani became heavily involved in the murky underworld of the Mujajireen and led several Chechen Islamist factions before joining Daesh in the Syrian Civil War.
By 2013 he was already the group’s senior commander for the north of the country and has been described by experts as in essence the defence minister of Daesh taking personal control of key battles and orchestrating military policy.
Reports of his death have been exaggerated in the past but it appears that Shishani has finally met his maker.