Militant leader Abu Mohammad al Golani, the former head of the Nusra Front before it merged with other groups to form Tahrir al Sham, was injured in an air strike.

This file photo shows an image released on July 28, 2016 by Al Manara al Bayda, the official news arm of Al Nusra Front, allegedly showing the group's chief Abu Mohammad al Golani at an undisclosed location. (AFP/File Photo)
This file photo shows an image released on July 28, 2016 by Al Manara al Bayda, the official news arm of Al Nusra Front, allegedly showing the group's chief Abu Mohammad al Golani at an undisclosed location. (AFP/File Photo) (AFP)

Russia has critically injured a top leader of the Tahrir al Sham militant group in Syria after launching an air strike on his position, the defense ministry said on Wednesday. The strikes also reportedly killed 12 of his field commanders.

Abu Mohammad al Golani was the former head of the Nusra Front before it merged with other groups to form Tahrir al Sham. The US maintains that the groups are still linked to Al Qaeda. 

"As a result of the strike, Golani sustained numerous shrapnel wounds and, having lost an arm, is in critical condition, according to information from several independent sources," Konashenkov said.

The air strike was part of an ongoing operation to destroy militants who had surrounded 29 Russian military policemen in mid-September, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said said in a statement .

The Ministry said in a statement it had targeted Golani in an intelligence-led special operation while he was meeting his field commanders.

TRT World's Sarah Firth reports the latest.

Around 50 of Golani's bodyguards and 12 Nusra Front field commanders had been killed in the same air strike, including a close aide to Golani and the head of the militant group's security service, said Konashenkov.

More than 10 militants received moderate and serious blast injuries, he said, adding that Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used to target the group.

Other militants, along with Golani, occupy roles in the group's high command.

The Nusra Front severed ties with Al Qaeda last year and rebranded to head the Hayat Tahrir al Sham alliance.

Jabhat al Nusra, or the Nusra Front, publically shed its status as Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate in 2016 and became Fateh al Sham Front. 

Since 2017, it dominates a coalition of factions called Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS). The US maintains that the groups are still linked to Al Qaeda, however. 

The alliance controls most of the northwestern province of Idlib after expelling former allies earlier this year.

Captured soldiers

Daesh released a video on Tuesday that showed two Russian soldiers captured by its militants in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, where Russia has been backing the Syrian regime military against militants.

In the 42-second video, released on the terrorist group's AMAQ news agency, two men appeared briefly in a room wearing grey tunics. One, with a beard, appeared to be in handcuffs, the other seemed to have bruises on his face.

But the Russian Defence Ministry denied their soldiers had been captured, Interfax news agency reported.

Hezbollah commander

Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group says one of its top commanders has been killed while fighting Daesh in Syria.

The 44-year-old Ali Al Hadi Al Ashiq is the latest fatality for the Shia group that has fought alongside Syrian regime forces in the war since 2012.

He was killed fighting Daesh in the central desert of Palmyra on Monday, Hezbollah said on Wednesday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies