Syrian Militant Commander Killed Near Aleppo

A Syrian militant fires at sniper positions in the town of Harem, near the Turkish border. (File Photo)A Syrian militant fires at sniper positions in the town of Harem, near the Turkish border. (File Photo)

A senior commander of the Syrian militant group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front has been killed near Aleppo, militant sources say.

The group currently known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham said on its Twitter account that commander Abu Omar Sarakeb died in an airstrike in Aleppo Province.

It did not say which country’s forces had carried out the airstrike, BBC reported.

Al-Nusra Front changed its name at the end of July, reportedly cutting ties with Al-Qaeda at the same time to get rid of its terrorist listing and receive aid from countries opposed to Syria.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which has its stronghold in Idlib province, is one of the militant groups fighting the Syrian government since early 2012.

It was considered a terrorist group by the US, as well as by Syria and Russia, and was excluded along with the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group from a US-Russia-brokered partial ceasefire earlier this year.

A source quoted by Reuters said Sarakeb and others had been targeted in a hideout in the village of Kafr Naha, west of Aleppo city.

Unconfirmed reports said several other senior figures in the group have also been killed or injured, Reuters reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights, a UK-based group which draws its information from activists on the ground, said an airstrike from unknown warplanes had hit a meeting of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, killing Sarakeb and another military commander named as Abu Muslem al-Shami.

The embattled city of Aleppo and surrounding districts have seen some of the fiercest clashes in Syria’s civil war in recent months.

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting have so far come to nothing. US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to hold talks on Syria with Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. It is understood they will discuss efforts to forge a nationwide truce, improve humanitarian aid deliveries and restart peace talks. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria was also discussed on Thursday in a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish state media reported. Erdogan told Putin that a ceasefire in Aleppo was needed “as soon as possible”, Anadolu news agency reported.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking in the UK on Thursday, said he was confident that IS would be pushed back into its strongholds of Raqqa, in Syria, and Mosul, in Iraq, within months, before being militarily defeated.