Prominent Al Qaeda leader Ahmed Salama Mabrouk was targeted in a US drone strike in Syria but his death was still being confirmed, said the Pentagon on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda offshoot group Jabhat Fateh al Sham (JFS) said Mabrouk has been killed.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said Mabrouk was "one of Al Qaeda in Syria's most senior leaders and a legacy Al Qaeda terrorist who previously had ties to Osama bin Laden." Cook added, “His death, if confirmed, would disrupt and degrade coordination among senior Al Qaeda leaders and extremists.”
Mabrouk, an Egyptian also known as Sheikh Abu al Faraj al Masri, "was martyred after a coalition air strike in the west of Idlib province," the JFS said in a statement on Telegram, a private messaging app. The JFS said he died when the vehicle in which he was travelling was hit.
Born in 1956 in the suburbs of Cairo, Mabrouk was known as an Al Qaeda leader and a JFS commander. Mabrouk spent years in prison in Egypt on charges of plotting with religious militant groups and later left for Afghanistan.
JFS, previously known as Al Nusra Front, split from Al Qaeda in July. However, US military officials believe the groups still have ties.
“We are aware of Al Nusra's announced name change. The individuals that are there are still Nusra to us,” Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.
"There's obviously close affiliations" to Al Qaeda, he added.