Pro-Assad militia leader Mihrac Ural with his men in northwest Syria (File)

Mihrac Ural, a pro-Assad militia leader known for the mass killing of civilians in western Syria, has been seriously wounded in an explosion in northern Latakia Province.

Ural, also known as Ali Kayyali, was injured by an IED. He was airlifted by a regime helicopter to a Damascus hospital, which has yet to make an official statement.

A rebel commander said the roadside bombing occurred at 10:40 am as Ural toured regime-held areas near a frontline where a Russian-regime offensive has stalled. The Abu Amara Brigades, which tried to assassinate Ural in November 2018, claimed responsibility for the explosion.

The opposition labeled Ural the “Butcher of Baniyas” after his men, alongside regime troops, killed hundreds of civilians on May 2-3, 2013 in the village of Bayda and the city of Baniyas in Tartous Province.

Thousands of civilians were trying to flee after fighting in the area, including a rebel attack that slew at least six regime soldiers. Others were trapped in their homes and summarily executed.

Entire families were killed by Ural’s militia and the regime units. Human Rights Watch put the number of dead at 248, while a UN report set the figure between 300 and 450.

Ural said, before the killings, that it was necessary to besiege and “cleanse” Baniyas from “traitors”.

The militia leader was also wanted by Turkey for bombings in the southeast of the country, near the Syrian border.

In January 2018, Ankara asked Russia to arrest and extradite Ural, who — despite the claims of his war crimes — was involved in political talks in the southern Russian city of Sochi.