Top Syrian rebel commander “critically injured” after Russian airstrike

Russia’s Defence Ministry has said that Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the leader of the group formerly known as the Al Nusra Front, has been seriously injured after a Russian air strike in Syria’s Idlib province.

Al-Julani is now the Commander-in-chief of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an armed rebel group formed after the collapse of the Al-Nusra front, which was affiliated to Al Qaeda.

Russia affirmed that its jets have been targeting positions of the group in Syria for two straight days, killing seven commanders and injuring dozens of other fighters.

Al-Julani sustained shrapnel wounds during the strike and is in a critical condition after losing his arm while his security chief was killed, the sources added.

More than 10 fighters received moderate and serious blast injuries, he said, adding that Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used during the attack.

The jets also destroyed the group’s “largest underground ammunition depot” near the town of Abu ad-Duhur, accommodating “over 1,000 tons of artillery shells and multiple launch rockets.”

The strike came after Russia’s military learned where HTS commanders were due to meet, it added.

There was no immediate comment from rebel sources on the Russian claim. However, a HTS-linked news outlet reported on Tuesday that Russian air strikes had targeted Abu al-Zuhur airport and later the Abu al-Zuhur court in Idlib.

It said three people were killed and others injured in the bombing of the court, denying al-Julani was among the casualties.

Russia said in July that it might have killed the leader of the rival group ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But a new audio message purportedly from Baghdadi was released last week.

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