The top military commander of the militant Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a former al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria, was killed in an aerial raid that targeted a meeting of the group’s leaders, two rebel sources said on Thursday.
Abu Omar Saraqeb was killed in an airstrike in the countryside of Aleppo, where the group has been playing an instrumental role in ongoing battles against the Syrian army troops and Iranian-backed Shiite militias. The nationality of the jets that hit the location was not immediately known.
An Islamist source told Reuters the militants were in a secret hideout in the village of Kafr Naha. There were unconfirmed reports that several other senior figures were either injured or killed.
Al Qaeda’s powerful Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, announced last July it was ending its relationship with the global militant network founded by Osama bin Laden, to remove a pretext used by world powers to attack Syrian civilians.
The move appeared to be an attempt to appeal to Syrians who have long had deep misgivings about Nusra’s links with al – and the presence of foreign jihadists in its ranks.
The move was dismissed by Washington, which said it did not change its stance on the organisation that is listed as a terrorist group. Washington said the move was cosmetic and a rebranding that did not signal a shedding its ideology.
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