- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 4, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia’s military announced on Wednesday that it has carried out airstrikes in Syria this week that critically wounded the leader of the country’s al-Qaida-linked group and killed 12 other militant commanders.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said in a statement that the airstrikes wounded Abu Mohammed al-Golani, leader of the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee.

According to Konashenkov, 50 other militants who were securing the gathering were also killed.

Russia carried out the airstrikes on Tuesday at an undisclosed location in Syria after receiving intelligence about an upcoming high-level meeting of the group’s leaders, the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the militant group.

Moscow has blamed the al-Qaida-linked group for attacking Russian military police in Syria’s western Hama province last month. Three Russian troops were wounded after the militants encircled 29 Russian military officers deployed outside Idlib, to the north, for several hours during an insurgent offensive. The Russian troops repelled the attack with the help of local tribes.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the Syrian civil war, said on Wednesday he had no information about whether al-Golani was targeted and wounded or not.

The Observatory, however, reported that a military air base in the Idlib province, controlled by the Levant Liberation Committee, had been targeted with at least 23 airstrikes on Tuesday.

Idlib has witnessed an intense aerial campaign in the past days following an attempted offensive by the insurgents against Syrian government and allied troops south of the province.

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose troops have also been advancing since early September in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour against the Islamic State group under the cover of Russian airstrikes.


Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

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