Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader killed in US strike northwestern Syria

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Jihadis of Nusra and ISIS clash near Yarmouk camp southern Damascus. File photo

ARA News

Air Forces of the US-led coalition struck Syria’s northwestern Idlib Governorate earlier this week, targeting a prominent militant leader and deputy chief of the al-Qaeda splinter group of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported dead after an airstrike hit his vehicle last Sunday. Fateh al-Sham confirmed al-Masri’s death in an official statement on Thursday.

Al-Masri, a prominent Egyptian jihadist, was the deputy of al-Qaida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

According to US counterterrorism officials, al-Masri was involved in coordinating al-Qaida’s work with other militant groups and played a direct role in developing external plots.

Meanwhile, the CIA declined to comment on reports of al-Masri’s death.

This is not the first time for the US-led coalition to target leading members of the jihadist group.

On January 18, Abu Ibrahim al-Tunsi, a Tunisian jihadist and leading member of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, was killed along with four other militants in a coalition air raid, local sources told ARA News. “The air raid hit al-Tunsi’s convoy in the Aqrabat district in Idlib,” a local media activist said. “The jihadi leader and four of his guards were killed in the operation.”

Also, on January 12, another airstrike by the US-led coalition killed Abu Ali al-Tunsi, a security official within the Fateh al-Sham group.

On January 1, a coalition airstrike led to the death of Abu Omar al-Turkistani, a military commander in Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. “The US-led coalition hit al-Turkistani’s convoy in the vicinity of Sarmada town in Idlib Governorate, near the Turkish border,” local media activist Saeed al-Hamwi told ARA News at the time.

Other prominent members of the group that have been killed by similar strikes last year included Abu Afghan al-Masri, an Egyptian, Abu Faraj al-Masri, also an Egyptian, and Abu Omar Saraqeb, a Syrian jihadist.

Jahbat Fateh al-Sham was previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra or al-Nusra Front. In July 2016, the extremist group announced that it had split from al-Qaeda and was rebranding. However, the US State Department said that group’s militants remained a fair target for US warplanes in Syria despite Nusra’s decision to cut ties with al-Qaeda and change its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

On November 12, the United States amended the designation of Jabhat al-Nusra as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, listing Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) as a terrorist alias. Security analysts told ARA News that the United States has expanded its anti-JFS campaign ever since.

Reporting by: Helin Saeed | Source: ARA News 

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