Senior Jabhat al-Nusra commander Abu Hammam al-Shami 'killed in Syria air strike'

Leaders of the front claim that al-Shami was killed during a meeting with other Jabhat al-Nusra commanders

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The Independent Online

An air strike by Syrian government forces has killed a senior commander of Jabhat al-Nusra, the group and state media have reported.

The SANA state news agency said that Abu Hammam al-Shami, also known as al-Farouq al-Suri, was killed in a special army operation in the Idlib province on Thursday.

Al-Shami had held the title of general military commander of the group, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

Members of the group said that he had been killed in a US drone strike last week, however representatives on Thursday claimed that Shami had died earlier that day whilst in a meeting with other senior Jabhat al-Nusra commanders.

Thursday’s air strike came a day after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the intelligence headquarters of Syria’s air force in Aleppo.

Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “We cannot confirm press reports of the deaths of senior Jabhat al-Nusra leaders near the province of Idlib.”

He added that: “Neither the US or the coalition have conducted air strikes near the location in recent days.”

The Jabhat al-Nusra Front first surfaced in January 2012, releasing online statements claiming responsibility for suicide bombings in Aleppo and Damascus.

The leaders of the well-armed group are reportedly considering cutting links with al-Qaeda to form a purely Syrian organisation. They are currently on the UN’s sanctions list and have been a designated a terrorist group by the US since 2012.

Qatar is reportedly at the heart of the a proposal which would provide the group with funding if it agrees to aid in the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.