Aamaq news agency, the Islamic State's main media channel, confirmed on July 13th that Abu Omar al-Shishani was killed in Shirqat, south of Mosul. The U.S. admitted that its previous claim of having killed Shishani was incorrect and that U.S. warplanes had indeed targeted al-Shishani. In recent years, al-Shishani served as a senior IS commander, described as the "IS minister of war,” and as of mid-2014 he was one of the leading non-Arab figures on the Islamic State Shura Council.
Shirqat is located in the northern part of Salah al-Din province, on the way to Mosul. The Iraqi army has so far liberated several villages in the area, aiming to advance toward Shirqat from different directions. Al-Shishani’s presence in this area, at a time when Iraqi forces are preparing their military operation to retake the city of Mosul, indicates the significance that the Islamic State attributes to this area.
The news about al-Shishani’s death has led IS supporters to publish slogans, banners and pictures of him on social media, promising to launch attacks in his honor. Some of them changed their profile pictures to that of their popular and beloved army commander.
The loss of al-Shishani for the Islamic State is mainly symbolic. Though it is a critical time for IS, as they struggle to re-organize their forces and defend Mosul after the fall of Fallujah, al-Shishani’s death will not change their tactics in the coming future. The Islamic State will continue to launch deadly suicide attacks against civilian and army targets in Iraq.