According to Syria state television the leader of al-Nusra Front – an Al-Qaeda affiliated fighting force in Syria – has been killed. The group however has issued a statement denying the report and saying their leader is “in good health.”
According to reports Abu Mohammad al-Golani, was killed in the north-western province of Latakia, Syrian state TV said earlier, providing no further details. The Al-Qaeda affiliate has refuted the report.
“What was claimed by one channel alone, regarding what it claimed was the killing of the emir of Al-Nusra Front, was a lie,” the group said as cited by AFP.
Al-Golani, the leader of al-Nusra, is known for his efforts to overthrow the Syrian government and impose Islamic Sharia law. The armed rebel group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Syria that killed hundreds of civilians.
In May, Al-Golani was designated as a global terrorist by the United States for his Al-Qaeda links and responsibility for multiple suicide attacks. According to US State Department, Abu Mohammad al-Golani sought assistance from Al-Qaeda in Iraq to carry out terrorist acts, namely suicide attacks in Syria. He has also publically pledged allegiance to Al- Qaeda leader, Ayman al Zawahiri.
Latakia, largely loyal to government forces, has seen the recent advance of rebel forces. On Friday, however, government forces have conducted operations across the country, reportedly wiping out a terror cell in Latakia among other gains, Al-Golani was not mentioned among those killed by the official state news agency SANA.
In Latakia, the Syrian army has engaged the rebels killing many alleged members of terrorist groups and destroying weapons and machinery, military sources told SANA. Among the dead identified in al Frulluk were extremists Mustapha Joudi and Ammar al Ali.
In Al Shahroura, village weapons and ammunition were destroyed as well as 12 militants killed.
Another three alleged terrorists were killed in Dwierkeh village. Five more were killed in Al Marounieh village where ammunition caches were destroyed.
According to the source, the army also targeted and destroyed militant hideouts in Idlib, where some sources claimed Al-Golani was spotted on Friday.
Sana also reports that the government forces ambushed more than 50 Al-Nusra linked members of the Al Islam Brigade at a Damascus region lake seizing their weapons, including Israeli-made anti-tank rockets.
The troops also ambushed an Al-Nusra front fighting brigade in eastern Ghouta killing at least 41 fighters and wounding 10 others. According to the army commander some were Saudi, Qatari and Iraqi nationals, SANA reports.