Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a major Islamist opposition group fighting the government of Bashar Al-Assad, was killed in the city of Salamiyah near Hama during a failed attack the rebel group launched against government forces on Sunday, Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt.
A member of the Syrian opposition, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said: “Imad Ahmad, a Palestinian national, the commander-in-chief of the ISIS, was killed last Sunday in the eastern suburbs of Hama.”
Although the source did not know “exactly the injury that caused his death,” he said Ahmad “was certainly killed in an attack against a regime battalion in a village near the city of Salamiyah.”
An activist from the city of Salamiyah told Asharq Al-Awsat that if the source is correct, Ahmad was probably killed in a “major attack the ISIS carried out on Sunday against a military point near Salamiyah called Zor Al-Sos on the day the city was bombarded [by the regime.]”
“[ISIS] carried out a suicide attack against a regime checkpoint but the operation failed because the car bomb went off in the wrong place,” he said.
“After the suicide explosion immediately ISIS elements rushed thinking the explosion was successful but the operation completely failed and we were assured that more than 30 elements from the ISIS were killed due to the mistake,” he added.
The sources said the Islamist leader was likely to have been killed, particularly as ISIS had to “completely deny the operation after it issued a statement” claiming responsibility for it.
“The ISIS distributed the statement [claiming responsibility for the operation] half an hour into the operation before they lost more than 30 elements.”
According to the opposition source, ISIS also had to deny responsibility for the operation after mortar shells they fired at Salamiyah on Sunday missed their targets and killed several civilians.
ISIS is an Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group fighting Assad in the nearly three-year-old civil war that erupted in March 2011. The group evolved from the Islamic State of Iraq which, since its establishment in 2006, claimed responsibility for a series of suicide attacks there. ISIS, together with the Al-Nusra Front, are two of the most influential forces on the ground in Syria.
The presence of Islamist rebel groups like ISIS in Syria like is thought to be one of the main reasons why the West has been reluctant to arm Syrian rebels.