The second-in-command of the terror group ISIS was killed in a U.S. airstrike this week, the White House said Friday.
Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, was in a moving car near the ISIS capital of Mosul, Iraq, when it was hit by a drone strike Tuesday, officials said. Also killed in the strike was Abu Abdullah, who the White House said was the terror group’s media operative.
"Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics," National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement, referring to a name by which ISIS is also known.
Al-Hayali was described by a senior U.S. official as a kidnapping kingpin. The terror group, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, has executed hostages and broadcast graphic video of the atrocities.
"He was directly responsible for hostages," a senior U.S. official said. Al-Hayali was also involved in al Qaeda in Iraq, where he was involved in that terror organization's finances, the official said.
Al-Hayali was a key figure in military operations in Iraq, moving people, weapons, vehicles, and explosives between Iraq and Syria, Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said. He also helped plan the operation to seize the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, Price said.
Al-Hayali is described as one of two deputies to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. His death could disrupt the terror group, at least temporarily.
"It upsets the organization. Can and will he be replaced? Sure," the senior U.S. official said. "But it creates doubts in their organization about what we know, if they are compromised. Do they have a spy within? Who? It creates disruption and confusion, which is a good thing for us to do to the enemy," the official said.
There were media reports, including from NBC NEWS, last December of Hajji Mutazz's death. The reports said at the time his death was confirmed by US officials. Among those citing his death, according to the reports, were General Martin Dempsey. The U.S. official said Dempsey either misspoke or was misquoted at that time.
This week, ISIS militants reportedly beheaded one of Syria's most prominent antiquities scholars, 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad,in the ancient town of Palmyra. The terror group is also believed to have used chemical weapons against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria.
"The United States and its coalition partners are determined to degrade and destroy this terrorist group which has wrought so much harm and suffering on the people of the region and beyond," Price said.