Russia claims it killed IS ‘Minister of War’ with bunker buster bombs on secret Syria hideout
A former colonel, Gulmurod Khalimov headed the Tajik interior ministry’s special forces unit and received American training before joining IS in 2015
Russia claimed on Friday to have killed several top commanders of Islamic State (IS) in an air strike in Syria, including the “Minister of War” and the so-called Emir of Deir-al-Zor.
“As a result of a precision air strike of the Russian air forces in the vicinity of Deir-al-Zor city, a command post, communication centre and some 40 IS fighters have been killed,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“According to confirmed data, among the killed fighters are four influential field commanders including Deir-al-Zor emir Abu Mohammed al-Shimali,” the ministry said.
Gulmurod Khalimov, who is known as the IS group’s Minister of War and the highest-ranking defector from ex-Soviet Tajikistan, suffered a “fatal injury”, it added.
Russia’s warplanes dropped “bunker buster” bombs on the fighters as they were meeting near Deir-al-Zor to discuss how to respond to the advance of the Syrian army, Moscow said.
Backed by Russia, Syrian troops on Tuesday broke through a years-long siege imposed by IS militants on tens of thousands of civilians in Deir-al-Zor.
Reports of Khalimov’s death have surfaced before.
A former colonel, he headed the Tajik interior ministry’s special forces unit and received American training before joining IS in 2015.
Khalimov pledged allegiance to the jihadist group in a video released in May 2015 in a high-profile defection that rocked Tajikistan, a mainly Muslim country.
In the footage he warned that he and other IS recruits based in the Middle East were “coming” for top officials in the country, including long-ruling President Emomali Rahmon.
In 2016, the United States offered a US$3 million bounty for information leading to his location or arrest.
In July, police in Tajikistan killed four relatives of the former special forces colonel in a gun battle, an interior ministry source has said, and three other relatives were detained.
The source claimed that all of those killed or detained were IS “supporters” and said that they were intending to flee to neighbouring Afghanistan, but did not offer any proof to back up the claims.
Additional reporting by Reuters