U.S, Kills Senior Iraqi Figure in ISIS

Apparently, Turkey provided the key information that allowed CENTCOM to target Janabi.
U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle flies over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (Photo: Archived)
U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle flies over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (Photo: Archived)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – CENTCOM announced on Wednesday that it had carried out an airstrike in Syria three days earlier that had killed “a senior ISIS official and facilitator.” 

The announcement was extremely short on details. According to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), America’s main partner in the fight against ISIS in Syria, the strike occurred in Turkish-controlled territory, which may well indicate an enhanced level of cooperation between Washington and Ankara in fighting ISIS.

But CENTCOM’s announcement did provide one important detail: the name of the ISIS official whom it targeted: Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim al-Janabi.

Iraqis Are Largest Group within ISIS

That detail suggests a significant point that has been widely overlooked: the dominance of Iraqis within ISIS.

The al-Janabi are an Iraqi tribe. They are Sunni Arabs, living in the middle and west of the country, in the provinces of Anbar, Al-Diwaniyah, Mosul, and Salahuddin.

Indeed, the most numerous national group at the al-Hol camp in northwest Syria, where the families of ISIS fighters are detained, are Iraqis. 

In February, Iraq announced that it had repatriated 1,500 families detained there, But that still left some 6,000 Iraqi families at al-Hol, and they still constituted the majority of people held in the camp.

In fact, the highly-regarded German news magazine, Der Spiegel, in a leak from German intelligence, has described ISIS’s origins. In an article entitled, “Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State” Der Spiegel explained that ISIS had been established amidst Syria’s civil war by elements of the intelligence service of the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein. 

Then, in 2014, ISIS burst across Syria’s border with Iraq, seizing one-third of the country, and precipitating the return of U.S. forces to Iraq and the current, although much diminished, conflict.

Indeed, this perspective is quite similar to the Kurdish view. In 2018, Kurdistan 24 spoke with the late Najmaldin Karim, who was born and raised in Kirkuk and who served as governor of the province for much of the fight against ISIS.

ISIS is basically a local phenomenon, Karim explained. “99 percent [of ISIS in Kirkuk] are local people from Kirkuk.”

“People need to understand that before [ISIS], there was terrorism—in Baghdad, in Kirkuk, in Ramadi, in Fallujah, in Mosul. In all of these places, there were terrorists,” he said.

“Who were these terrorists?” Karim continued. “They were al-Qaeda, Naqshbandis, who are remnants of the Ba’athists, Ansar al-Sunnah, Jund al-Islam—all these banded together under the leadership of [ISIS].”

“They’re all local people,” Karim stated again, emphasizing that point.

Kurdish authorities even had proof of that. “Peshmerga fought [ISIS] bravely, and hundreds of them were killed,” Karim said. “We have their pictures, their DNA. They’re all from the area.”

Read More: Najmaldin Karim: Islamic State is resurgent, dominated by locals

U.S.-Turkish Cooperation?

Late on Wednesday, following CENTCOM’s announcement, the SDF stated on X, formerly Twitter, that Usamah al-Janabi had been killed in an airstrike in northwest Syria, in Afrin, in Turkish-controlled territory.

That detail was not provided in CENTCOM’s announcement. But it makes sense.

The airstrike that killed Janabi followed a statement from Washington describing new measures of cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey in fighting ISIS. That statement was issued just two days before the strike that killed Janabi.

On June 14, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller issued a statement declaring that the U.S. and Turkey “today imposed terrorist designations on three individuals with links to ISIS.”

“These designations are the result of close counterterrorism coordination” between the U.S. and Turkey, Miller continued, as if to emphasize the cooperation between Washington and Ankara on the measure.

Those designated included Adam Khamirzaev, whom Miller identified as “the ISIS Georgia Province emir,” as well two Uzbeks. 

One of them, Muhammad Ibrohimjon Niyazov, “provided administrative and logistics support for ISIS members in Turkey,” Miller explained. 

But the U.S. and Turkey “are resolved to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he added, and “today’s designations reflect the important ongoing counterterrorism cooperation” with Turkey.

The heightened level of cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey against ISIS, along with the SDF’s report that al-Janabi was struck in Turkish controlled territory, may well indicate what happened: Turkey provided the key information that allowed CENTCOM to target Janabi. 

It may also explain the lack of detail in CENTCOM’s report, particularly as to where the attack occurred. That may well have been a way to avoid embarrassment to Turkey.