Special to WorldTribune.com
A top Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militant commander who U.S. officials said was “likely” killed by air strikes last week was actually only badly wounded, Syrian observers and activists say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of observers within Syria where the air strikes occurred, told news media late on March 9 that Umar al-Shishani, an ethnic Chechen who was born in Georgia, was “seriously injured” by the U.S. strikes, but survived and was transported to a hospital in Raqqa.
“He’s not dead,” observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “He was taken from the province of Hasake to a hospital in Raqqa Province where he was treated by a jihadist doctor of European origin.”
CNN reported that opposition activists in Syria are also saying Shishani, whose real name is Tarkhan Batirashvili, was “critically injured” and taken to a hospital.
U.S. officials on March 8 had told several news organizations that Shishani was “likely” killed. But they stopped short of saying he was dead and said they were still investigating the matter.
Shishani is considered one of ISIL’s most capable leaders. One official called him the militant group’s “secretary of defense.”