Washington, (AFP): A jihadist group that was formerly Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria on Monday confirmed that an air strike killed a senior leader after the Pentagon said it had targeted him.
Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, an Egyptian also known by his nom de guerre Abu Faraj “was martyred after a coalition air strike in the west of Idlib province,” the Fateh al-Sham Front said in a statement on the Telegram app.
Born in 1956 in the suburbs of Cairo, Mabrouk was known as a veteran Al-Qaeda leader and a Fateh al-Sham Front commander.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook confirmed that a US strike near Idlib had targeted Mabrouk, describing him as “one of Al-Qaeda in Syria’s most senior leaders and a legacy Al-Qaeda terrorist who previously had ties to Osama bin Laden.”
However, officials are “still assessing the results” to determine whether he had in fact been killed in the air raid, Cook stressed.
“His death, if confirmed, would disrupt and degrade coordination among senior AQ leaders and extremists,” he said in a statement.
“The United States military will continue to target Al-Qaeda leaders to disrupt their operations and counter the threat posed by this terrorist group,” he added.
Fateh al-Sham was previously known as Al-Nusra Front.
It split in July from the global jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden, a move analysts said was aimed at easing pressure from both Moscow and Washington.
However, US military officials do not consider Fateh al-Sham to have truly broken with Al-Qaeda.
“We are aware of al-Nusra’s announced name change. The individuals that are there are still Nusra to us,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.
“There’s obviously close affiliations” to Al-Qaeda, he added.