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Moscow: Al-Nusra Leader ‘Critical’ after Russia Strike | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A damaged SUV left behind by members of al-Nusra Front in a position captured by Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters in the fields of the Syrian border town of Assal al-Ward, May 9, 2015. AP/Bassem Mroue

Russia said on Wednesday it had killed 12 field commanders of al-Nusra Front in an air strike, adding the group’s top leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani had lost an arm and was in a “critical condition.’

Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the strike was the result of a special operation to avenge an attack on Russian military police in Syria on September 18.

As a result of the strike, “Jolani received multiple serious shrapnel wounds, lost an arm and is in a critical condition, according to several independent sources,” Konashenkov said in a statement.

He said 12 field commanders including al-Jolani’s security chief were also killed along with some 50 guards.

More than 10 militants received moderate and serious blast injuries, Konashenkov stated, adding that Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used to target the fighters.

The Moscow-led forces were able to hunt down the group using data obtained by Russian military intelligence on Tuesday and struck just when the militants convened for a meeting.

Al-Nusra Front, shed its status as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate in 2016 and became Fateh al-Sham Front. 

Since 2017, it dominates a coalition of militant factions called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). 

The alliance controls most of the northwestern province of Idlib after expelling former allies earlier this year.