Mosul (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State members raised alert in their stronghold town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after a senior aide to supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was assassinated.
A local source in Nineveh told Alsumaria News that unknown gunmen killed Hassab-Allah al-Qawqazi near his home in central Tal Afar. According to the source, Qawqazi’s dwelling originally belonged to a security officer, and was seized after IS took over Tal Afar in 2014.
Qawqazi kept a low profile most of the time, and his assassination prompted wide-scale searches across the region for perpetrators.
Tal Afar had previously seen assassinations of senior IS members, with recurrent reports denoting growing divisions and conflicts within the extremist group’s ranks as Baghdadi’s whereabouts or survival remain matters of controversy. IS has lost several senior commanders over the past few weeks in central Mosul since an offensive was launched in February to retake the western side of the city.
Pro-Iraqi government paramilitary troops, al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units), have been active around Tal Afar, recapturing several nearby villages and towns since a U.S.-backed offensive was launched in October to retake Mosul, Islamic State’s largest bastion in Iraq.
Iraqi government forces took over eastern Mosul in January.