BEIRUT: A local chief of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al Nusra Front has died in an apparent assassination after a bomb went off in his car, a monitor said yesterday.
“Nusra’s emir in Idlib (province), Yaacub Al Omar, was killed overnight when a bomb went off in his car near his house in the Khan Al Subul area,” the Syria Observatory for Human Rights said. Two of his sons were wounded in the blast, the Britain-based group added.
Omar, a Syrian in his forties, took over as local chief in April after his predecessor, Abu Mohammed Al Ansari, was killed by the jihadist Islamic State group.
Despite both having their roots in Al Qaeda, Nusra and the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have been in conflict since the beginning of 2014.
Both groups oppose the Syrian regime, but Nusra joined moderate and Islamist rebels to combat IS in a widespread backlash against its extremist ideology and abuses of civilians and rival rebels.
However, in recent weeks, Nusra has also been fighting some of those erstwhile allies.
That has further complicated the Syrian conflict, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Al Assad’s government, but has degenerated into a complex war involving multiple fronts and foreign fighters on both sides.
The fighting between Nusra and other rebels began in early July, with a particularly bloody battle breaking out in the Jisr Al Shugur region of Idlib a week ago.
Fighting there left dozens dead on both sides, according to the Observatory.
Rebels in the region have accused Nusra of trying to push them out of Idlib so the group can create an “Islamic emirate” to rival the “Islamic caliphate” that IS has declared in parts of Syria and Iraq under its control.