A senior leader of Jabhat al-Nusra – Al Qaeda’s official Syria wing – has been killed in battle against the Assad regime.
Sheikh Abu Sulaiman Al Masri’s death was confirmed on Saturday morning by Jabhat al-Nusra, the Sunni Islamist group fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Images of his body with a bloody gash to his head are circulating online as the group said he was killed during a battle with Assad’s forces.
It is thought he was killed in Aleppo, the commercial capital of Syria.
His death is said to be “a devastating blow” for the group’s operations in Syria, where a vicious civil war has killed more than 250,000 civilians and fighters since March 2011.
Al Masri, whose real name is thought to be Mahmud Maghwari, was an Egyptian who had been sentenced to death in Egypt for allegedly fighting with Hamas in Gaza before he joined al-Nusra.
Sheikh Al Masri’s death comes as Russian forces carry out air strikes alongside Syrian government troops against Syria rebel forces to restore a crucial supply line to a regime-held part of Aleppo.
At least 28 ISIS fighters, 21 Syrian soldiers and militiamen have been killed in the battle, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
On Friday the Syrian rebels cut off the highway from the rest of the regime’s territory in western Aleppo.
More skirmishes to the south of the city have left at least 16 rebels dead, the Observatory said in the weekend.
Jabhat al-Nusra formed when the war broke out, and is believed to be behind many of the suicide bombings which hit Syria at the time.
Early on in the conflict, al-Nusra had a reputation for honesty and discipline, which it used to its advantage to gain key areas in rebel-held parts of Aleppo when the uprising started. It is believed that majority of the group’s fighters are Syrian, with a significant minority of foreign fighters.