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Syria Feature: Whose Airstrike Killed and Wounded Top Jihadist Commanders?

Syria Feature: Whose Airstrike Killed and Wounded Top Jihadist Commanders?
September 09
08:05 2016

PHOTO: Abu Mousa al-Shami, a Jabhat Fatah al-Sham wounded on Thursday by an airstrike

An airstrike in northwest Syria on Thursday night killed and wounded leading commanders of jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra.

The attack hit a meeting of the commanders in the village of Kafr Naha in Aleppo Province. It killed Abu Omar Saraqeb, also known as Abu Hajr al-Homsi, a commander of the recent rebel offensive southwest of Aleppo which briefly succeeded in breaking the pro-Assad siege.

Other commanders were injured. At least one, Abu Muslim al-Shami, was in serious condition.

Speculation immediately arose over whether an Russian or American warplane carried out the strike, and whether it is part of an impending deal between Moscow and Washington over attacks on JFS/Nusra as well as the Islamic State.

Russian warplanes have targeted rebel and jihadist commanders since Moscow’s intervention last September. Among the victims was the commander of the Jaish al-Islam faction, Zahran Alloush.

However, Washington has attacked Jabhat al-Nusra/Jabhat Fatah al-Sham since it began bombing in Syria in September 2014, killing scores of people in northern Syria.

In recent weeks, the US and Russia have been pursuing a deal for intelligence sharing over airstrikes, as well as temporary ceasefires which purportedly will allow aid into both regime and opposition areas.

See Syria Daily, Sept 9: US & Russia Try to Close Deal for Temporary Ceasefire

Artur Rosinski’s map:


“This Attack Will Unify Rebels”

Russia has put out the line — and pressed the US to accept it — that rebels must be “separated” from JFS/Nusra, thus justifying attacks on opposition territory.

However, local sources said Thursday’s attack could propel talks for unity between rebel factions and JFS/Nusra.

Earlier this week, the discussions had reportedly been complicated by JFS/Nusra demands for top positions. However, a local source said this morning:

It isn’t a coincidence that most groups are mourning JFS leaders killed by the US strike, whereas in the past the largely were quiet when such attacks took place.

Look at the language used in the condolence message. Never before did I see so many Ahrar [Ahrar al-Sham, a leading Islamist faction] leaders condole JFS.

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About Author

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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  1. caligola
    caligola September 09, 08:19

    Abu Musa Al Shami (guy in the picture on EA)is safe and sound.


    Reply to this comment
  2. Mustapha Almagrebi
    Mustapha Almagrebi September 09, 10:36

    The Americans always coming for the help for their true friends.the Syrian regime and the shias.When this Obama thing is gone no one will remember him.except by his failures and his betrayals in Syria.

    Reply to this comment
    • Ben H
      Ben H September 09, 11:01

      I wouldn’t call America a friend of the Shia, although obviously the Obama administration has been craven in its appeasement of Iran. Remember that Shia paramilitaries were killing American soldiers just a few years ago, and make no secret of their desire to do so again.

      Reply to this comment
      • Razmjoo
        Razmjoo September 09, 12:09

        If you are going to occupy a country, don’t be surprised if the people fight back. Just stop invading and bombing other nations and your soldiers won’t be killed!

        Reply to this comment
        • Ben H
          Ben H September 09, 14:55

          I’m not sure if this comment is directed towards the US or Iran. Either way, I suppose it’s true…

          Reply to this comment
          • Razmjoo
            Razmjoo September 09, 16:53

            Iran isn’t occupying Syria. It is helping the legitimate government combat Saudi-backed terror. Were it not for the actions of the Iraqi resistance, the U.S would still be occupying Iraq – it was the goal of the Americans to establish a permanent presence there.

            Reply to this comment

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