Notorious Iraqi extremist killed in suicide bombing in Syria

Abu Maria Al Qahtani was one of the founders of Al Nusra Front, a former Al Qaeda offshoot

Syrian fighters attend a mock battle in anticipation of an attack by the regime on Idlib province and the surrounding countryside, during a graduation of new Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) members at a camp in the countryside of the northern Idlib province on August 14, 2018. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)
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A notorious Iraqi extremist leader was killed in a suicide bombing in Syria's rebel-held north-west, it was revealed on Friday.

Abu Maria Al Qahtani was killed in an attack by an ISIS fighter using an explosive belt, said former Al Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, which rules Syria's last remaining rebel bastion, on its affiliated Amjad media outlet.

Al Qahtani, whose real name was Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah Al Juburi, "was killed and two of his companions seriously injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up", the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The war monitor, which has a network of sources in Syria, did not provide further details about the identity of the suicide bomber. No group has so far claimed responsibility for Al Qahtani's killing.

He was one of the founders of Al Nusra Front, a former Al Qaeda offshoot in Syria that later renamed itself Hayat Tahrir Al Sham.

The US designated Hayat Tahrir a terrorist organisation and the group has long been a target for Syrian government troops and Russian forces.

The group controls about half of Idlib province and parts of neighbouring Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.

Al Qahtani who fought against US forces following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He moved to Syria after the 2011 uprising to join insurgents fighting against government troops.

He had been under US sanctions since 2012, with the Treasury accusing him of travelling to Syria in 2011 to spread Al Qaeda ideology, before occupying leading roles in Al Nusra Front.

He was killed shortly after being released from a Hayat Tahrir prison, where he had been detained for seven months on charges of collaborating with an enemy party, the war monitor said.

On March 7, the group acquitted and released Al Qahtani.

Hayat Tahrir competes with Turkey-backed mainstream rebel groups, which also control large parts of territory near the border in north-western Syria.

Syria has been ravaged by 13 years of civil war in which more than half a million people have been killed and millions more displaced.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 10:04 AM