Pentagon and Syrian monitor announced in March that Abu Omar al-Shishani was killed in a US air strike in Syria, but Islamic State says he died near Mosul
Isis has admitted a senior leader known as Omar the Chechen is dead, months after the Pentagon and a British-based monitoring group said he was killed in Syria.
Abu Omar al-Shishani, regarded by the Pentagon as Islamic States minister of war, was said to have died in a US air strike in Syria. The account was confirmed at the time both by high-level officials in Washington and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Wednesday the Isis propaganda agency Amaq claimed Shishani had been killed in combat in the Iraqi city of Shirqat, south of Mosul.
Officials at the Pentagon said they were aware of Wednesdays report but could not confirm or deny it.
Rami Abdelrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Shishani had been wounded in March and died soon after in the countryside east of Raqqa.
I confirmed from the doctor who went to see him, said Abdelrahman, who tracks the war in Syria through a network of contacts. He told Reuters that Islamic State likely delayed announcing his death to allow time to line up a successor.
Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen, ranked among Americas most wanted militants under a US programme that offered up to $5m for information to help remove him from the battlefield.
Born in 1986 in Georgia, then still part of the Soviet Union, Shishani had a reputation as a close military adviser to the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was said by followers to have relied heavily on him.
Shishani once fought in military operations as a rebel in Chechnya before joining Georgias military in 2006 and fighting against Russian troops before being discharged two years later for medical reasons, according to US officials.
He was arrested in 2010 for weapons possession and spent more than a year in jail, before leaving Georgia in 2012 for Istanbul and later Syria.
He decided to join Islamic State the following year and pledged his allegiance to Baghdadi. The US State Department said Shishani was identified as Islamic States military commander in a video distributed by the group in 2014.
Reuters could not independently verify Wednesdays statement from Amaq, which Islamic State regularly uses to issue reports and which denied Shishanis death after the Pentagons comments in March.
Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based security expert who advises the Iraqi government, said a source in Shirqat said Shishani had been killed there along with several other militants.
Iraqi forces are advancing towards Mosul, the largest city still under the control of Islamic State. They have mostly surrounded Shirqat, 160 miles (250km) north of Baghdad and last week retook a major air base from the militants to use in the main push on Mosul to the north.