US drone strike kills 14 Islamist militants in northwestern Syria

US drone strike kills 14 Islamist militants in northwestern Syria
The US Army says it has carried out a drone strike against Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province.
2 min read
The strike took place in Syria's war-ravaged Idlib province [Getty File Image]

The US Army said on that Thursday it carried out a drone strike against Al-Qaeda leaders in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, killing 14 Islamist militants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the victims included five foreigners and six commanders.

"US Forces conducted a strike against a group of al-Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) senior leaders meeting near Idlib, Syria," said Major Beth Riordan, the spokeswoman for United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

"The removal of these AQ-S leaders will disrupt the terrorist organization's ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening US citizens, our partners and innocent civilians," Riordan said in a statement.

She did not specify the number of deaths from the strike.

According to the UK-based SOHR the strike targeted a dinner meeting of jihadists in the village of Jakara in the area of Salqin.

The American strike took place in Idlib province, Syria's last major rebel-held bastion, which is dominated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group led a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Other jihadist groups are also present in the area.

SOHR chief Rami Abdel Rahman said that five non-Syrian jihadists were among those killed, but their nationalities were not immediately known.

Among the six Syrian leaders killed, two were from HTS, he said.

Read also: Assad's assault on Idlib's schools

Ebaa, the media agency of HTS, said a strike targeted a "tent belonging to one of the dignitaries" in Jakara, killing several people.

A US-led coalition is present in the east of Syria, where its airstrikes have backed Kurdish-led forces battling the Islamic State group.

Thursday's strike came after it emerged that the 18-year-old who killed a schoolteacher in France last week for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in class had been in contact with a Russian-speaking jihadist in Syria.

But the source close to the case said the identity of the Russian-speaking jihadist was not yet known.

After a string of military victories backed by key ally Russia, Syria’s Assad regime has gained control of around 70 percent of the country.

More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in the Syrian conflict, which started in 2011 after the Assad regime brutally suppressed peaceful pro-democracy protests.

Islamist and jihadist groups became prominent after the uprising against Assad’s rule turned into a military conflict.

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