Senior jihadist militant killed in U.S. air strike

Oct 04, 2016, 7:12 AM EDT
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is a dominant militant group in Syria.
(Source: Times Asi/flickr)

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, announced on Tuesday that one of its senior leaders, Abu al-Faraj al-Masri, was killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike near Syria’s north-western city of Idlib. Masri, an Egyptian cleric who served on the group’s Shura Council, previously had ties with Osama Bin Laden. Earlier, a Pentagon statement said the militant was targeted in air raids but the results were still being assessed.

Pentagon claimed that Masri’s death, if confirmed, will be a big blow to the militant group and will disrupt coordination between extremists and senior leaders from al-Qaeda, writes the BBC. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, changed its name in July, a move that many dubbed as a rebranding exercise. At the time Pentagon had said it judged an organization by its activities and not by the name it chooses for itself.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said that even after the name-change, there are close affiliations between the leaders of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and al-Qaeda, reports Al Jazeera. Russia has repeatedly accused Washington of being soft on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and of failing to convince the Syrian rebels to distance themselves from the militant group.