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Airstrike 'kills al-Nusra Front leading figure'

A senior figure in al-Qaeda's Syrian branch and at least 20 other militants have been reported killed in an air raid by Russia. The Nusra Front leader was a veteran of the Afghan resistance to the Soviets in the 1980s.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian civil war, said Abu Firas was killed Sunday in a suspected Syrian or Russian air raid on a village in northwestern Syria.

"Abu Firas al-Suri, his son and at least 20 jihadists of al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa and jihadists from Uzbekistan were killed in strikes on positions in Idlib province," the monitor's UK-based director, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the AFP news agency.

It's unknown if the raids in Idlib province were carried out by Russian aircraft or their Syrian government allies.

Supporters of the slain militant wrote on social media that Firas, whose real name was Radwan Nammous, had fought with the US-backed mujahedeen against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, where he met

al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden

and Abdullah Azzam, a bin Laden mentor, before returning to Syria in 2011.

Firas had many followers within the hard-line rebel group. He gave commentaries released by the Nusra Front on sensitive issues ranging from governance to religious jurisprudence.

Idlib province has been under the control of the al-Nusra Front and its allies since last year. A temporary ceasefire between government forces and rebels has largely held since February 27, but it

explicitly excludes the Nusra Front

and the self-styled "Islamic State" group.

jar/gsw (AFP, Reuters)

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