Washington, Feb 19: The US is maintaining a hit list of about two dozen top Islamic State operatives in Iraq and Syria with the terror group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being the number one target, according to a media report.
The list essentially amounts to a 'kill list', since the US has no troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria to capture Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suspects. The No. 1 target on the list is al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, a senior US official was quoted as saying by CNN.
Another US official was quoted as saying that al-Baghdadi is well-aware the United States is hunting him, so the belief is he is staying out of sight. It has been months since the last intelligence report about where al-Baghdadi is hiding, a senior US official said.
The United States believes al-Baghdadi knows warplanes are hunting him, so he moves cautiously -- even as his influence has grown beyond Syria and Iraq, the report said. The United States has already killed a dozen or so ISIS operatives on the list, including an ISIS chemical weapons expert, the senior official said.
But others are added to the list as intelligence is gained about their role in ISIS. The official strongly emphasised that the command-and- control structure of ISIS remains murky and more intelligence is needed about the identity of top operatives.
ISIS executioners such as the so-called 'Jihadi John' are still in the US crosshairs -- but the list focuses on targeting those whose death would broadly hurt ISIS. The kill list may now expand as the United States struggles to understand an ISIS command structure made more confusing by the growth of ISIS adherents in Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, the report said.