AMMAN (Reuters) – A leading Egyptian figure in al Qaeda who became a prominent member of its Syrian Nusra Front offshoot was killed in a drone attack in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, two jihadist sources said on Monday.
They said Sheikh Abu al Faraj al Masri, who spent years in prison in Egypt on charges of plotting with fundamentalist Islamist groups and later left for Afghanistan, was killed when an unidentified drone hit the vehicle in which he was travelling near Jisr al Shuqour in Idlib, in Syria’s northwest.
Since the U.S.-led coalition launched operations in Syria primarily against Islamic State militants, air strikes have also targeted Nusra Front figures, killing scores.
Only last month, Abu Hajer al Homsi, the top commander of Jabhat Fateh al Sham, as the Nusra Front is now known, Abu Hajer al Homsi, was killed in an air strike in rural Aleppo province. Homsi’s nom de guerre was Abu Omar Saraqeb.
Masri, a 60-year-old cleric whose real name was Sheikh Ahmad Salamah Mabrouk, was one of the leading companions of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri during his presence in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, according to a jihadist rebel source.
The source said that like other foreign jihadists, he came to Syria to join Nusra Front after being freed from Egyptian prison during the rule of President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who was toppled by the military in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)