- Senior commander of al-Nusra killed fighting south of the city of Aleppo
- Images of his lifeless body, containing a bloody head wound, shared online
- Death is considered a serious blow to organisation’s operations
- Abu Sulaiman al-Masri had previously fought in Gaza and had been sentenced to death in his native Egypt
One of al Qaeda’s senior commanders in Syria has been killed in a gun battle with Syrian Arab Army forces in Aleppo.
The al-Nusra Front, the Sunni Islamic jihadist militia fighting against Syrian Government forces in the civil war, confirmed Sheikh Abu Sulaiman al-Masri’s death this morning.
Images of his body, containing a bloody head wound, have been shared online with early reports suggesting he died fighting Assad forces.
al-Masri’s real name is believed to be Mahmud Maghwari, an Egyptian national, who had previously been sentenced to death in his homeland for fighting with Hamas in Gaza.
He was killed while commanding troops in Aleppo during a battle against Kurdish forces.
The experienced jihadi had previously had to have his thumb and several fingers amputated after they were badly damaged during in a battle.
The senior commander’s death is considered a serious blow to the terror group’s operations in the war torn Middle Eastern country.
Al-Nusra front (also known as Jabhat al-Nusra) has recently fought as part of an alliance known as the Jaish al-Fath, allowing the group to lead the capture of the north western city of Idlib.
Fighting alongside other Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Fath now hold significant territory in the province of Idlib, although Russian air strikes have targeted their forces in recent weeks.
al-Nusra front first announced its existence four years ago, saying it was behind many of the suicide bombings that rocked Syria when civil war broke out in March 2011.
Led by Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the al-Qaeda affiliated group has developed a reputation for discipline and honesty, according to local reports, which helped it gain a key roles in rebel-held areas in Aleppo when the uprising first began.
Photographs of Sheikh Abu Sulaiman Al Masri show him posing with children no older then ten holding handguns.
News of his death comes as Syrian troops backed by Russian air strikes battle Islamic State group fighters in a bid to restore a key supply line to the capital.
The jihadists’ cutting of the highway from the rest of government-held territory on Friday dealt another blow to the regime, which has launched multiple ground offensives since Russia began an air campaign on September 30.
Aleppo was Syria’s pre-war economic hub but it has been ravaged by fighting since mid-2012 and is divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east.
The surrounding countryside is controlled by a patchwork of armed groups, including Islamist and moderate rebels as well as IS and its jihadist rival, Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
With the support of Russian air strikes, the army has recaptured territory south of the city in recent days and is seeking to break an IS siege of the Kweyris airbase to its east.
The clashes to the south of the city have killed at least 16 rebels since Friday, the Observatory said.
The army has also been on the attack in Hama and Homs provinces further south.
Twelve rebels and 14 troops and pro-government militia were killed in the fighting in Hama province, the Observatory said.