According to the U.S. National Security Council, as detailed by CNN, the terrorist group ISIS' second-in-command, Haji Mutazz, was killed by a drone strike near Mosul, Iraq, earlier this week. The news of Mutazz's death — he also reportedly went by the name Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali — was confirmed by NSC spokesperson Ned Price on Friday afternoon. And, as detailed by the Air Force Times, Price emphasized the impact this will have on ISIS' operations.
He supported ISIL [Islamic State] operations in both countries and was in charge of ISIL operations in Iraq, where he was instrumental in planning operations over the past two years, including the ISIL offensive in Mosul in June 2014. Al-Hayali's death will adversely impact ISIL's operations given that his influence spanned ISIL's finance, media, operations, and logistics.
Mutazz was killed near the city of Mosul, which is a hotly contested region for the radical group, by virtue of its dam and its crucial water supply. The dam was freed from ISIS control just over one year ago, the result of U.S. airstrikes. Airstrikes weren't involved in this latest development, however — it was a drone that attacked Mutazz's car, killing him as well as Abu Abdullah. According to CNN, Abdullah was an operative who worked on ISIS' media efforts.
According to Price, Mutazz wasn't a newcomer to the terrorism scene; he was also a member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which served as a major ISIS forerunner in the region following the American invasion in 2003. NBC News also reports that a senior American official linked Mutazz to ISIS' habit of taking hostages and subjecting them to brutal executions, saying, "He was directly responsible for hostages."
While it isn't clear which hostages exactly are being invoked, there have been a number of high-profile deaths of American captives of ISIS, like James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller. ISIS reportedly banned the kinds of violent execution videos — usually showing beheadings — that revealed the deaths of the former three back in January, fearing that the public displays were hurting the group's already brutal image.
As NBC News notes, this development comes hot on the heels of a tragic atrocity in the Syrian city of Palmyra, where ISIS reportedly killed venerated octogenarian antiquities scholar Khaled al-Asaad. Al-Assad had refused to turn over the location of some of the ancient city's historical treasures and was beheaded by the group on Wednesday.