A leading figure in al Qaeda who became a prominent member of its Syrian Nusra Front offshoot was killed in a drone attack, the group and jihadist sources said.
They said Sheikh Abu al Faraj al Masri, who spent years in prison in his native Egypt on charges of plotting with fundamentalist Islamist groups and later left for Afghanistan, died when the vehicle in which he was traveling was hit in rebel-held Idlib in Syria’s northwest.
“May God accept him as a martyr who was killed in a Crusader raid,” said a jihadist named Abu Mohammad al Shami. The U.S. Defense Department said in a statement that Masri was the target of a U.S. air strike near Idlib. “We are still assessing the results of the strike,” it said.
Since the U.S.-led coalition launched operations in Syria, primarily against Islamic State militants, air strikes have also targeted Nusra Front figures, killing scores. Syria’s militant Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly the Nusra Front, confirmed the death of the Egyptian cleric in an air strike. Last month, Abu Hajer al Homsi, the group’s top commander, was killed in an air strike in rural Aleppo province.
Masri, 60, whose real name was Sheikh Ahmad Salamah Mabrouk, had been one of the leading companions of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, according to a jihadist source.