Commander of former Nusra group ‘killed in Syria’

The top military commander of the militant group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a former al-Qaida offshoot in Syria, was killed in an aerial raid that targeted a meeting of the group’s leaders, two rebel sources said on Thursday.

They said the commander, whose alias is Abu Omar Saraqeb, was killed at a location in the countryside near Aleppo where the group has been playing an instrumental role in ongoing battles against Syrian troops and Iran-backed Shia militias. The nationality of the jets that carried out the air strike was not immediately known.

An Islamist source told Reuters that the militants were in a hideout in the village of Kafr Naha. There were unconfirmed reports that several other senior figures were either injured or killed.

Al-Qaida’s Syrian branch changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham from Jabhat al-Nusra – the Nusra Front – in July, when it announced that it was ending its relationship with the global jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden. The move, which it said was to remove a pretext used by world powers to attack Syrian civilians, may also have been an attempt to appeal to Syrians who have long had deep misgivings about Nusra’s links with al-Qaida and the presence of foreign jihadists in its ranks.

The move was dismissed as cosmetic by the US, which said it continued to regard the organisation as a terrorist group. Washington said the rebranding did not signal a shedding of its ideology.


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