BAGHDAD: Islamic State will struggle to recover from the death of a top aide, reported this week in a US air strike, whose overview of the group´s finances, politics and administration was unmatched, Iraqi and US sources said.
Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Haji Iman and Abu Alaa al-Afri, was a veteran jihadist with a bounty of $7 million on his head.
That was second only to the $10 million offered for Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and accurately reflected his importance to the group.
"This is the heaviest blow to Islamic State in terms of assassinations because Qaduli was at the heart of (its) ... administrative structure," said Hisham al-Hashimi, an analyst who advises the Iraqi government on the militants.
"Baghdadi can´t replace Haji Iman with a person of equivalent value. He will have to appoint three people to fill the vacuum... That reduces (Baghdadi´s)... efficiency and leaves him more exposed to danger than before."
As well as heading the Shura council that advises Baghdadi, Qaduli was governor of the Syrian provinces and the group´s financial comptroller, Hashimi said.
His death, and just before him that of war minister Abu Omar al-Shishani and the capture of an unidentified chemical weapons operative, "show that the United States has sources of information close to their top command level," the analyst added.
US officials say Islamic State is losing a battle to forces arrayed against it from many sides in the vast region it controls.
The jihadist fighters were on the retreat this week in the strategic Syrian city of Palmyra.
In Iraq, the group has been pulling back since December when it lost Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar.
The Baghdad government is hoping this year to recapture Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, seized by the militants nearly two years ago.
"The loss of Haji Iman will be massive. Although (Islamic State) ... has a strong system in place to replace key leaders it still takes time to readjust," said Ranj Talabany, an official from the Kurdish Zanyari intelligence agency.
"He was fully aware of their finances, and key leadership decisions were made with Haji Iman being consulted."