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Red-bearded Georgian IS militant Omar killed

CHECHNYA: A red-bearded Chechen fighter who became the public face of Islamic State militants has been killed, according to reports. Omar al Shishani, whose real name is Tarkhan Batirashvili, appeared in propaganda videos for the extremist group during fighting in Syria and Iraq.

He was originally from Georgia’s Pankisi Valley - considered a stronghold for militants - and was reportedly killed in Chechnya, according to the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. On his Instagram page, Kadyrov posted a picture reportedly of the dead militant.

According to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass he wrote, “Tarkhan Batirashvili, the enemy of Islam who called himself Omar al Shishani, has been killed, anyone who even thinks about threatening Russia and the Chechen people.”

In September, IS militants threatened to carry out attacks in the North Caucasus, an area home to a majority of Muslims that has experienced attacks from Islamic extremists over the last few years.

Al Shishani, which means Omar the Chechen, is among hundreds of Chechens considered some of the most ruthless fighters among IS militants. The 28-year-old is rumoured to have been promoted to military chief of IS earlier this year.

He fought in the 2008 Russia-Georgia War and was imprisoned for possessing illegal weapons. After he was released in 2010, he left for Turkey and later surfaced in Syria in 2013.

There he pledged loyalty to IS chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and played a key role in the seizing of Managh air base in the north of Syria.

It comes after IS reportedly announced it will begin minting its own gold, silver and copper coins to remove Muslims from the "satanic usury-based global economic system", according to the monitoring agency SITE.