Security

Syria drone strike kills top Tunisian extremist

By AFP and Diyaruna staff

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A man inspects the wreckage site of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that crashed near the town of Kafr Takharim in the north of Syria's north-western Idlib province on August 18th. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

A prominent Tunisian extremist has been killed in a drone strike in north-western Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday (September 15th).

The Monday strike, conducted by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Idlib province, killed Hurras al-Deen leader Sayyaf al-Tunsi, the Observatory said.

"The drone targeted the vehicle of the Hurras al-Deen leader in Idlib, killing him," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

According to "reliable sources", the vehicle al-Tunsi was driving was hit in al-Qusoor neighbourhood of Idlib city, the Observatory said.

Hurras al-Deen is a relatively small but powerful armed group led by al-Qaeda loyalists. In June, it joined forces with four other hardline groups operating in the region to form the Fathbatu operations room.

Considered to be al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, Hurras al-Deen is a rival of Tahrir al-Sham, an extremist alliance dominated by former members of al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front (ANF) -- although the two groups co-operate at times.

Sayyaf al-Tunsi was a former ANF leader who was sidelined over his alleged responsibility for the 2015 massacre of 20 Druze villagers in Idlib province.

There was no immediate confirmation of the strike from the US, nor the international coalition against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Abdel Rahman said al-Tunsi's car was targeted by a so-called "Ninja" R9X missile, a modified Hellfire on which the explosive head is replaced with blades to minimise "collateral damage".

Use of the R9X missile is consistent with previous US airstrikes against senior extremists in northern Syria.

Hurras al-Deen commanders killed

On August 13th, the Observatory said that according to reliable sources, an Uzbek extremist commander was killed in a drone strike in Idlib province.

The targeted commander, known as "Abu Yehia", was an independent "military trainer" who worked for extremist factions, the Observatory said, and had worked recently for Hurras al-Deen.

He was targeted by a UAV near Sarmada in northern rural Idlib while he was traveling in his private car, and died instantly, the Observatory said.

A drone strike in Idlib province on June 14th killed a Jordanian military commander and another of Yemeni nationality from Hurras al-Deen.

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