A leader of a faction affiliated with al-Qaeda was killed in a US drone strike in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Monday, according to field activists and the US military, amid conflicting reports about the target.
The head of the Syrian opposition’s monitor, Abu Amin, said that the Monday US drone strike had targeted the Guardians of Religion Organization leader Abu Khalid Qudsaya while he was riding a civilian vehicle along the Idlib-Binnish road east of Idlib province.
Amin denied reports that the strike had killed another two leaders of the Guardians of Religion Organization.
He also pointed out that Qudsaya had previously survived a US air raid that targeted him around two years ago.
In a statement on Tuesday, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokeswoman Lieutenant Josie Lynne Lenny said: “US forces conducted a kinetic counter-terrorism strike near Idlib, Syria, today, on a senior al-Qaeda leader.”
“Initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike.”
In a Monday press conference, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby announced that a drone strike hit a vehicle traveling in rebel-controlled northwestern Syria on Monday, killing a senior al-Qaeda leader.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said the airstrike was conducted near Idlib, Syria and there are no initial indications of any civilian casualties.
The US has carried out attacks in Idlib before, targeting al-Qaeda militants and the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was hiding in the province after fleeing from eastern Syria.
Large parts of Idlib and neighboring Aleppo province remain in the hands of Syrian armed opposition, dominated by radical groups including the once al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
More so, Al-Qaeda factions and the remnants of ISIS are subjected to repeated air raids by Russian warplanes within the Syrian Badia and northeastern Syria, and similar raids by the US-led International Coalition.
In October 2019, nine extremists were killed. Four of the fighters belonged to the Guardians of Religion Organization, which is the arm of Al-Qaeda in Syria. About a month later, 40 extremists were killed in US strikes near the city of Idlib.