On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed US air strike near Sarmada in northwest Syria on Nov. 18, killed a senior al-Qaida leader.
During a briefing with Pentagon reporters, Cook said that Abu Ayyub al-Masri was an Egyptian who joined al-Qaida in Afghanistan and later moved to its Syrian affiliate and plotted attacks on the West. The Pentagon did not immediately provide further information about Masri, only that he had a ‘senoir leadership role’ in Al-Qaida. Cook said, “This is someone who helped organize Al-Qaida activities.”
The November strike targeted al-Masri near Sarmada town, 50 kilometers west of Aleppo. Cook said, “He has been on our radar for some time.” He added that al-Masri had direct links to terrorists responsible for attacking US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
“He had ties to terrorist groups operating throughout Southwest Asia, including groups responsible for attacking U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and those plotting to attack the West,” he added, noting that al-Masri’s removal from the battlefield is another blow to al-Qaida in Syria.
He said, The successful air strike “demonstrates continued U.S. determination to target al-Qaida leaders wherever they pose a threat to the U.S., our allies and interests.”
Meanwhile, monitors in and near the embattled city of Aleppo reported Russia backed Syrian forces and their Shi’ite Hezbollah allies pushing deeper into opposition-occupied neighborhoods, as they press an offensive to recapture the rebel-held city.
In October, the Pentagon said a US air strike near Idlib had targeted a Nusra senior leader, Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, an Egyptian also known by his nom de guerre Abu Faraj.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes and helicopters bombed two key neighborhoods for an eighth straight day. 27 civilians were dead in the past two days from air strikes and artillery, said a spokesperson and warned that casualty figures were near certain to rise.
143 civilians were dead including 19 children since last week when the latest government assault began.
On Monday, at the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said monitors have confirmed nearly 300 people killed in eastern Aleppo in recent days, and said one Syrian volunteer had reported 180 air strikes on Saturday alone.
She said, “The reality is that the regime [of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and Russia are continuing their ‘starve, get bombed or surrender’ strategy in eastern Aleppo.”
Power also scoffed at a two-week Russian bombing lull touted by Moscow earlier this month, calling it a ‘unilateral’ exercise in which the Kremlin failed to coordinate with U.N. relief workers or other organizations trying to get emergency aid to Aleppo’s war-ravaged civilians.