First Published: 2018-02-16

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels
Commander of HTS killed in attack on car as it crossed checkpoint in Al-Huta village in Aleppo province of Syria.
Middle East Online

HTS is dominated by members of Al-Qaeda's onetime Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front

BEIRUT - A prominent jihadist commander was killed by a rival hardline group in northern Syria early Friday, a monitor said, in a new sign of fierce intra-rebel tensions in the area.

An array of rebel factions still hold parts of Aleppo province and almost all of neighbouring Idlib, but they have clashed several times in a struggle for influence.

Fighters from the Islamist Nureddine al-Zinki rebel group "fired on a car as it was crossing one of their checkpoints in the village of Al-Huta after midnight," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Abu Ayman al-Masri, a top commander of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), was in the car and was killed," the Britain-based war monitor said.

His wife was also wounded.

Al-Ibaa, a media channel affiliated with HTS, also reported that Masri had been killed and his wife wounded after "being hit in direct fire from al-Zinki."

HTS is dominated by members of Al-Qaeda's onetime Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.

According to the Observatory, Masri was in charge of education services for foreign members of the organisation.

He had previously served as a military trainer for new recruits.

"Abu Ayman was a member of Al-Qaeda international," the Observatory said, adding that he had fought with the organisation in Afghanistan.

Masri was already in Syria when Al-Nusra Front began establishing itself as a major force in rebel ranks in 2014.

The Nureddine al-Zinki movement is a hardline Islamist faction with a powerful presence in western parts of Aleppo province near the border with Idlib

It formed a short-lived alliance with HTS in 2017, but has broken it off and the two groups have clashed in the past.

Last year, HTS consolidated its hold on most of Idlib province after seizing towns and other key territory from rival rebels.


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