Abu Muslim al-Turkmani: From Iraqi officer to slain ISIS deputy

Turkmani reportedly served as a deputy to Baghdadi, the self-styled “caliph” of ISIS

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Fadel Abdullah al-Hiyali, aka Abu Muslim al-Turkmani who U.S. officials say was killed in recent anti-ISIS air strikes, was reportedly a former Iraqi officer under Saddam Hussein and had served time in a U.S.-run prison before becoming “the right hand man” of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the militant group’s leader.

U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that three senior ISIS leaders were terminated by anti-ISIS coalition air strikes between November and December.

The newspaper, quoting unidentified officials, said Turkmani and Abd al Basit, described as the head of ISIS military operations in Iraq, were killed in the strikes between Dec. 3 to Dec. 9. Radwin Talib, who was the ISIS governor in Mosul, was killed in late November.

Saddam-era officer becomes key ISIS leader

Al-Turkmani, also known as Haji Mutazz, reportedly served as a deputy to Baghdadi, the self-styled “caliph” of ISIS which seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria earlier this year that prompted a U.S.-led coalition military response.

Al-Turkmani was apparently in charge of overseeing Iraqi provinces under ISIS and was a close aide to Baghdadi, according to documents seized by Iraqi forces following a raid on an ISIS member’s house earlier this year.

The documents, which illustrated the leadership structure under Baghdadi, showed al-Turkmani as the second in command.

However, there have been conflicting reports over his seniority in the ISIS leadership structure.

U.S. officials quoted by ABC news described him as “the right-hand man” of Baghdadi. A U.S. intelligence source told CBS News that Turkmani, “though not the ‘No. 2 of ISIS as commonly reported, was a very high-ranking and significant figure in the group, particularly in Iraq.”

Al-Turkmani reportedly hailed from the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, which is located along a strategic corridor to Syria and is considered home to mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkmen.

He reportedly served as a former lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein. He later joined an Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and apparently served in a U.S.-run prison before joining ISIS.

The U.S. Defense Department told CBS News that Turkmani and Talib, the other ISIS figure killed in the December strikes, “were once prisoners at Camp Bucca, a U.S. prison in Iraq.”

“At least 12 of ISIS's top officials, including leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, served time there,” the department said.

So far, ISIS has not released statements confirming the death of Turkmani on any of its social media accounts.

According to the Long War Journal, a respected counter-terrorism blog, Turkmani is considered the senior most ISIS leader killed in Iraq and Syria since the death of the group’s military emir Abu Abdulrahman al Bilawi, and Baghdadi's deputy Samir al Khlifawi, in January 2014.

Earlier in November, it was reported that al-Turkmani was killed in an air strike that was said to have “fatally wounded” ISIS leader Baghdadi.

In early November, tribal sources told Al Arabiya News Channel that Baghdadi was wounded in an air strike in Iraq.

At the time, the United States said it could not confirm whether Baghdadi was wounded in U.S.-led airstrikes on the group in Iraq.

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