Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali was one of Islamic State’s most senior officials and used to be a colonel in Saddam Hussein’s Army.
He was number two to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and was responsible for moving weapons, explosives, vehicles and people between Iraq and Syria.
Earlier this month the SAS received intelligence that Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, was visiting terrorist strongholds in northern Iraq.
Hayali’s convoy was tracked as it left a town in Mosul after a meeting of ISIS commanders on August 18.
The SAS men decided to ambush the vehicles and take Hayali alive, fearing an air strike close to the town would result in too many civilian casualties.
But they eventually concluded their chances of successfully escaping with him were too slim.
Concerned they might lose Hayali, the team sent orders for an air strike to be carried out when the vehicle was in the open so there would be no risk to civilians.
A US Air Force fighter jet was conducting a combat air patrol when it was ordered to head for Mosul.