Air strike kills top commander of former Nusra group in Syria
Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters, Sep 8 2016
AMMAN – The top military commander of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former Jabhat al-Nusra, was killed in an aerial raid that targeted a meeting of the group’s leaders, both the group and rebel sources said on Thursday. The commander Abu Hajer al-Homsi, whose alias is Abu Omar Saraqeb, was killed in a rural area of Aleppo province, they said. An announcement by the group said he was “martyred” in an air strike in the countryside of Aleppo. The nationality of the jets that hit the location was not immediately known, but a rebel source said initial information suggested it was most likely a Pindo jet that struck the hideout. Abu Omar Saraqeb was a founding member of Nusra and had fought the invasion in 2003 before returning to Syria. Along with other leaders, he set up Jaish al-Fateh, which last year drove the Syrian army from Idlib. The major Russian military campaign at the end of last year turned the tide in Assad’s favor and thwarted their rapid gains that brought them close to the coast. An insurgent source told Reuters they were in the village of Kafr Naha when the raid took place. The leader of the group Abu Mohammad al-Golani was apparently not at the meeting. Few other details emerged of the strike, but a photo of another top leader known as Abu Muslim al-Shami circulated on social media showing him alive in an effort to refute reports he had also been killed.