One of the Islamic State’s most feared executioners and propagandists has been killed in a coalition airstrike in Iraq, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Abu Waheeb, who starred in a series of chilling execution videos, was almost unique among Isil terrorists for his willingness to appear in propaganda films without wearing a mask to disguise his identity.
He featured in dozens of Isil publicity releases, grinning for the cameras as he went about his work, and until the arrival of “Jihadi John” in late 2014, was one of the terror group’s most notorious figures.
His most infamous role was in a video in which he conducted a “Quranic quiz” for three captured lorry drivers from Syria, shooting them in cold blood when they failed to answer questions correctly.
Last Friday, it seems his notoriety finally caught up with him. The Pentagon said that he was targeted that day in an airstrike in Iraq’s western Anbar province, where he had been appointed at Isil’s main military emir, or commander.
“On May 6, a coalition airstrike targeted Abu Waheeb, Isil’s military emir for Anbar province and a former member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq who has appeared in Isil execution videos,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.
He added: “It is dangerous to be an ISIL leader in Iraq and Syria these days, and for good reason.”
Abu Waheeb, who was also known as Shakir Waheeb, shot to prominence in 2014, when the Islamic State had just taken over the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
In what was then a militia full of masked, black-clad figures, he stood out as the one fighter who was never shy to show his face, despite the risks of putting himself on a security service hitlist. For his enemies, that face was often the last they would ever see.
He first became well-known after starring in a video that surfaced on jihadist websites in 2013, which showed him and his gang executing three Syrian lorry drivers who had been driving through ISIS territory in Anbar.
Having ordered the drivers to pull over at gunpoint, he demanded to know if they were Alawites, the Shia Muslim sect of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
When they insisted that they were Sunni Muslim like him, he quizzed them on their religious knowledge, convinced they were lying.
A few minutes later, having ignored the men’s desperate pleas that they are just “trying to earn a living”, he forced them to kneel on the ground as a militiaman raked them with machinegun fire.
Other images of Wahiyib showed him parading with his fighters in the desert, posing with what seems to be a US army issue M-4 assault rifle, and reading jihadist poetry on a stage at an anti-government rally in Fallujah.
He is believed to have been born in Anbar province and was in his 20s. Such was his success as a propaganda tool that he appeared in the front page of an online jihadist magazine, while his rugged looks were even said to have attracted female admirers from other Arab and Gulf countries.
Iraqi government forces paid him the ultimate backhanded compliment, by issuing several statements claiming that he has been killed.