Nusra Front Confirms Death of Top Commander

Nusra Front Confirms Death of Top CommanderNusra Front Confirms Death of Top Commander

Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate confirmed on Friday that its top field commander was killed in an airstrike that targeted a meeting of the group’s senior leadership.

Abu Anas al-Shami, the spokesman for the Nusra Front, was quoted by ABC News as saying that Thursday’s airstrike in the western Syrian province of Idlib killed Abu Hommam al-Shami, described as the group’s “military commander.”

Abu Hommam’s death was first reported a day earlier by Syria’s SANA state news agency and by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said that other senior Nusra Front leaders were also killed in the attack.

The two al-Shamis — Abu Hommam and Abu Anas — are not related. Their shared name in Arabic means “the Syrian.”

The fate of the Nusra group’s overall leader, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, was not clear, the Observatory said, although there were reports that he had been in the area of the attack. Three others were reportedly killed in Thursday’s airstrike, including two of Abu Hommam’s bodyguards.

It also remained unclear who conducted the airstrike. SANA claimed it was the Syrian military while activists and Nusra said it was the US-led coalition. Both the coalition and the Syrian government routinely target Nusra positions.

The attack deals a blow to the Nusra Front at a time when the militant Islamic faction has been aggressively confronting other Syrian militant groups and consolidating control over parts of northern Syria. Most recently, Nusra Front fighters overran encampments belonging to the US-backed Hazm Movement rebel group and seized what it claimed were American weapons and supplies. In the aftermath of that defeat, the Hazm Movement dissolved itself.

The Nusra Front is also a bitter rival of the Islamic State group, which controls about a third of Iraq and Syria. However, the two militant groups also occasionally cooperate on limited operations — including a joint cross-border raid last year that took more than a dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage.