US drone strike kills prominent Turkish al-Qaeda leader

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Islamist fighters of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Nusra Front. File photo

ARA News

Idlib – Haydar Kirkan, a Turkish al-Qaeda leader who had received military training and religious indoctrination in Afghanistan, was killed in Idlib on October 17. American officials confirmed his death on Wednesday and said that he had been eliminated in a US drone strike.

“[The] Department of Defense confirms the death of legacy al-Qaeda terrorist and external plotter Haydar Kirkan via US airstrike, last month in Idlib Governorate,” US Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk said.

According to the United States, Kirkan was responsible for organizing terrorist attacks overseas. “He was actively engaged in planning external operations,” Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

Kirkan had operated al-Qaeda cells scattered across Turkey’s Konya, Istanbul, Kocaeli, and Izmir Provinces. He was consequently implicated in the November 2003 Istanbul bombings, which killed at least 59 people.

Pentagon officials said that while Kirkan was based out of Islamist-controlled Idlib his primary responsibility was handling al-Qaeda operatives in the West.

“[The] US has been tracking him for some time and there is a whole process for identifying and killing senior al-Qaeda officials in Syria,” Thomas Joscelyn, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told ARA News.

“He was also killed in an al-Qaeda stronghold. The US has targeted a whole series of al-Qaeda leaders in Idlib,” Joscelyn added.

In all likelihood, Kirkan was also a member of Jahbat Fateh al-Sham, which was previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra. In July the jihadi group announced that it had split away from al-Qaeda and said that its primary focus would now be fighting the President Assad’s government.

However, Russia and the United States maintain that the changes within Jabhat al-Nusra were entirely cosmetic. They have therefore continued to target the extremist group, and have called on the Syrian opposition to disassociate itself.

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