Abu Khaled al-Suri, a senior figure in the insurgent faction Ahrar al-Sham and an associate of Al Qa’eda leaders, was killed on Sunday by a suicide bomb in Aleppo.
No one claimed the attack on the Ahrar al-Sham headquarters, but insurgents blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, whom they have been fighting across northern and eastern Syria since January. Six others died in the attack.
Al-Suri, born Mohamed Bahaiah, represented Al Qa’eda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in mediation between ISIS and the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-Zawahiri endorsed Jabhat al-Nusra, with closer ties to the Syrian people and groups, last spring, but ISIS refused to accept the decision.
In January, al-Suri wrote an open letter calling on ISIS commanders and there “brother emigrants” to “repent to Allah and return to His matter and adhere to His Sharia.” The effort was to no avail: ISIS broke from Al Qa’eda earlier this month.
Al-Suri also tried to arrange local cease-fires amid the ISIS fighting with insurgents. Last month he signed an agreement on behalf of insurgents with ISIS’ Chechen-born commander Umar Shishani in Aleppo Province, a cease-fire which was almost immediately renounced by the Iraqi-led group.
Al-Suri with Ahrar al-Sham leader Hassan Abboud:
IF ISIS claims responsibility for Sunday’s attack — and perhaps even if it does not — it is likely to confirm its long-term battle with the Syrian insurgency. At the same time, it raises a question: can ISIS triumph or even survive in that battle if it is fighting not only every insurgent faction in Syria but also its former ideological source, Al Qa’eda?