Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Militant leader maimed in airstrike

SPECIAL OPERATION:Russian forces hunted down the group using intelligence data obtained on Tuesday and struck when militants had convened for a meeting

AFP, MOSCOW

Children fly kites on Tuesday at a refugee camp for people displaced by fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State group militants in Ain Issa, Syria.

Photo: Reuters

Russia yesterday said it had killed 12 field commanders of al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, adding the group’s top leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani had lost an arm and was in a “critical condition.”

Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the strike was the result of a special operation to avenge an attack on Russian military police in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria on Sept. 18.

“As a result of the strike, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra Abu Mohammed al-Jolani received multiple serious shrapnel wounds, lost an arm and is in a critical condition, according to several independent sources,” Konashenkov said.

He said 12 field commanders including al-Jolani’s security chief were also killed along with about 50 guards.

More than 10 fighters received moderate and serious blast injuries, he said, adding that Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used to target the militants.

The Moscow-led forces were able to hunt down the militant group using data obtained by Russian military intelligence on Tuesday and struck just when the fighters convened for a meeting.

The Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, shed its status as al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate last year and became Fateh al-Sham Front.

Since this year, it dominates a coalition of militant factions called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

The alliance controls most of the northwestern province of Idlib after expelling former allies earlier this year.

Washington and the UN did not recognize the break from al-Qaeda and retained the militants on their terror blacklists.

Over the past months Russia has claimed to have killed several top militant commanders.

Russia reported in June its jets had possibly killed the leader of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a bombing raid near the Islamic State group stronghold of Raqa in Syria and said in July it was struggling to confirm if he was dead or alive.

Earlier this month the Islamic State group released an audio recording of what it said was its leader al-Baghdadi.

Last month Russia claimed to have killed several top Islamic State group commanders in an airstrike including the US-trained “minister of war” Gulmurod Khalimov.

Since the assault on Russian military police, Idlib has been the target of heavy airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia.

The Russian defense ministry said three officers were wounded in the Sept. 18 attack and would be decorated, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said three Russian soldiers had been killed in clashes with Islamic State group militants.

Idlib Province and some adjacent areas form one of four so-called de-escalation zones agreed in May by rebel backer Turkey and government allies Russia and Iran.

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