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Militant leader killed in Syria airstrike

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Zahran Alloush, the notorious leader of the terrorist group calling itself "Jaysh al-Islam," was killed in airstrike carried out by the Syrian Air Force.

Syria says Zahran Alloush, the notorious leader of the terrorist group calling itself "Jaysh al-Islam," has been killed in an operation by the Syrian Air Force in what is seen as a major intelligence coup for Damascus.  

In a statement issued late on Friday, Syria's General Command of the Army and Armed Forces confirmed that Alloush and several other leaders of terrorist organizations were killed in the air campaign against terrorist hideouts in the Damascus countryside of Eastern Ghouta.

The General Command said the operation followed "a series of surveillance and monitoring operations, based on accurate intelligence," Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported.

The statement added that many other senior figures of "Jaysh al-Islam"  as well as "al-Rahman Legion" and "Ahrar al-Sham" terrorist groups were killed in the attack by the Syrian Air Force.

A Syrian security source said that "dozens" of the terrorists were killed in the attacks conducted by Syria's air force with recently-provided Russian missiles.The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Alloush and five other commanders were killed "in an airstrike that targeted one of their meetings in Eastern Ghouta." A senior member of "Jaysh al-Islam" also confirmed Alloush's death, saying three planes bombarded a "secret meeting" of the group’s commanders.

Hours after Alloush’s death, leading members of the terror group elected Abu Himam al-Buwaydani, a 40-year-old militant, as a replacement.

"Jaysh al-Islam," which is influenced by Wahhabism, is one of several Takfiri terrorist groups operating in Syria. According to SANA, the organization is armed and funded by Saudi Arabia.

Syrian Army's other gains

Meanwhile, Syrian forces have also seized control of major hilltops held by terrorists in the northwestern province of Latakia.

This undated photo released by Syria's official news agency SANA shows Syria's forces.

SANA said on Friday that the army and volunteer fighters liberated the Jabal al-Naom heights in the northern countryside of the province.

The liberation operation lasted only 12 hours, SANA said, adding that several major militant hideouts were also destroyed. Many terrorists were forced to flee to the nearby towns of Salmi and Rabi’a. 

With the control over the hilltops, the Syrian forces now have better access to the positions of militants in the village of Salmi.

Syrian forces also carried out other successful operations south of the capital, Damascus, with reports saying that they managed to destroy a series of tortuous tunnels leading to the town of Darayya.

Latakia and Aleppo, another province in the same region, have seen successful operations by the army recently. The military gains were expedited since Russia, based on an official request from Damascus, began to provide air cover to the pro-government forces on September 30.

Officials in Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that Russian fighter jets had made 5,240 sorties since the start of air campaign against militants in Syria. Sergei Rudskoi told reporters that 145 of those sorties have been carried out by long-range bombers, adding that the Russian air force made 189 sorties on Thursday alone.

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