US Commandos Take Out ISIS Leader in Hunt for Top Terrorists as Obama Prepares to Leave Office
The commandos killed the terrorist leader inside Syria.
— -- An elite team of American commandos killed a senior leader of ISIS this week, giving President Obama another name to scratch off his list of top terrorists in the final days of his presidency.
Abu Anas al-Iraqi, said to be the finance chief of ISIS, was killed Sunday in an operation in Syria by an intelligence-driven U.S. special operations unit known as the Expeditionary Targeting Force, a counterterrorism official told ABC News.
"He was a top ISIS emir," the counterterrorism official said, using the Arabic term for "prince" or "leader" that is commonly adopted by jihadis.
The U.S. hopes to also kill top ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph, or leader, of all Muslims, who is believed to be hunkered down in Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. Iraqi government forces and a U.S.-led coalition mounted a stalled offensive to retake the city in recent months.
The official said that one other ISIS fighter was killed and that the U.S. team — under orders of the Joint Special Operations Command — conducted "sensitive site exploitation." Which means it looked for documents and electronic devices with intelligence value. No American operators were wounded.
The U.S. government has not publicly confirmed the terrorists' deaths.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis confirmed on Monday only that there was a "routine" U.S. special operations raid by the ETF in Dayr az Zawr, Syria, the day before and that it was "successful."
He said the operation was not intended to rescue hostages and no one was captured or detained, as has been reported on social media.
Al-Iraqi is not a well-known figure.
His name occasionally surfaced in social media as well as in captured ISIS documents referring to him as a leader, and intelligence indicated he was a member of ISIS' ruling shura council.
As chief accountant, he oversaw the group's war chest, derived from extortion, kidnapping and ransom, taxation in occupied territories, oil and gas sales and illicit trafficking, officials said.
The death of an ISIS operative of the same name was reported two years ago, but, like many other ISIS figures falsely reported killed, al-Iraqi — a nom de guerre — apparently remained alive and in the fight until this week.
The CIA declined comment today on his killing.
Al-Iraqi was killed shortly after U.S. special operations helicopters began trailing a single vehicle outside Dayr az Zawr and were fired on by the occupants of the vehicle, a third official told ABC News.
The helicopters fired back, disabling the vehicle and killing all the occupants.
The Obama administration has racked up a number of kills as he makes way for President-elect Trump to assume the responsibility of keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks.
The dead include Hajji Mutazz, a deputy to al-Baghdadi; Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, ISIS' spokesman and external operations chief; and Abu Mohammed Furqan, an Iraqi member of the shura council who with al-Adnani oversaw the group's sophisticated, narrative-driven propaganda, which has shocked the world and drawn in tens of thousands of foreign volunteers since 2014.
The top Qaeda operative in Afghanistan, Nayef Salam Muhammad Ujaym al-Hababi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last fall, and the top Taliban emir, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was killed in Pakistan by an American drone in May.
ABC News' Paul Blake contributed to this report.