The Cable

The White House Says the Islamic State’s No. 2 Is Dead. For Real This Time.

The White House says the Islamic State's second in command is dead.

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The Islamic State’s second-in-command, Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Haji Mutazz and Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, was killed by a U.S. airstrike on August 18, the White House said Friday afternoon.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said al-Hayali, the senior deputy to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed while driving in a vehicle Tuesday near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

Price called al-Hayali’s death a major blow to the terror group, which controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria. According to the White House, he was well known for moving weapons, explosives, and vehicles between Iraq and Syria. Al-Hayali also helped plot the June 2014 offensive that allowed the Islamic State to take Mosul.

“Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations, given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics,” Price said in a statement. “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.” ISIL is another name for the Islamic State.

Alberto Fernandez, vice president at the Middle East Media Research Institute, said he is confident that, this time, al-Hayali is actually dead.

“I remember him being killed last year,” Fernandez told Foreign Policy on Friday afternoon. He was referring to December 2014 claims by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey that al-Hayali was killed by U.S. airstrikes late last year.

The White House also said an Islamic State media operative, known as Abu Abdullah, was killed in the strike. Fernandez, a former ambassador who formerly ran the State Department’s counterterror propaganda center, said it is difficult to know the importance of this death, or whether it would adversely impact the group’s effective social media recruitment methods. Fernandez pushed back against the idea that Abdullah played an important role in the Islamic State’s effective social media efforts.

“All of the English-speaking fighters are important because they can communicate in English,” Fernandez said.

Photo Credit: Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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