The US military announced on Thursday that it had carried out a strike against Al Qaeda officials in northwestern Syria, an operation which, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), has killed 14, including five foreign jihadists and six commanders.
“The US Forces carried out a strike against a group of senior Al Qaeda officials in Syria who had gathered near Idlib,” said Commander Beth Riordan, spokesman for the US Army Central Command (Centcom).
“The elimination of these leaders of Al Qaeda in Syria will reduce the capacity of the terrorist organization to plan and carry out attacks threatening American citizens, our partners and innocent civilians,” she added in a statement.
The American spokeswoman did not specify the number of dead.
According to OSDH, an NGO based in Great Britain, the drone strike targeted a rally of jihadists in the village of Jakara in the Salqin region.
The strike took place in Idleb province, the last bastion hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which is home to jihadist groups and rebels led by Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (HTS), the former Syrian branch of ‘Al-Qaeda which dominates the insurgent areas.
According to OSDH director Rami Abdel Rahman, five foreign nationals were among the jihadists killed on Thursday, but their nationality is not established.
Of the six commanders killed in the strike on Thursday, two were from HTS, he said.
Ebaa, the HTS propaganda organ, said for his part that a strike had targeted “a tent belonging to one of the dignitaries” in Jakara, killing several people.
The strike comes as in France, the assassin of the professor killed by a Chechen Islamist for showing caricatures of Muhammad to his students was in contact with a Russian-speaking jihadist in Syria before his act. The identity of this jihadist has not been established at this stage, said a source familiar with the matter.
According to the newspaper The Parisian, this person located by his IP computer address would be based in Idleb.
The region hosts thousands of foreigners, including French, British and Chechens, who have settled there over the years, according to OSDH.
After a series of victories thanks to military aid from its Russian ally, the Assad regime has regained control of around 70% of Syrian territory.
Triggered in 2011 by the repression of a popular revolt against power, the conflict has turned into a devastating war involving a multitude of regional and international actors, as well as jihadist groups.
The war killed more than 380,000 people and forced millions of people to flee.