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US drone strike kills two suspected al-Qaeda officials in Idlib

The strike is believed to have killed a former member of Huras al-Din's Shura Council and a security official.
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A US drone strike in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib killed two al-Qaeda officials and reportedly injured other people near the village of Arab Sa’id on Thursday.

The US Central Command claimed credit for the strike in an email to Al-Monitor on Thursday. Al-Qaeda in Syria “continues to present a threat to America and our allies,” Maj. Beth Riordan wrote.

Syria’s opposition Euphrates Post identified two of those killed in the strike as Abu Dharr al-Masri, a former Sharia official with Huras al-Din, and Abu Yousef al-Maghribi.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Masri had been a member of Huras al-Din’s Shura Council, and that al-Maghribi had been the group’s general security official.

SOHR also cited local sources as saying a child was killed in the attack, a claim that has not been independently confirmed by Al-Monitor.

Images purporting to show the result of the strike circulated on social media. In one photo, the remains of a mangled, burning vehicle can be seen on a dirt road.

Thursday’s strike was the latest in a string of US killings of suspected al-Qaeda officials in Syria’s opposition-held northwest, a region in which Turkish forces are present.

Turkey has agreed with Russia to remove extremist groups from the area as part of a cease-fire that halted the Syrian government’s Russia-backed offensive against the opposition-held province earlier this year.

But Turkey has not cracked down on Huras al-Din’s rival, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, leading to speculation that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham may have been providing Turkish intelligence information about Huras al-Din figures.

Both Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Huras al-Din both have roots in al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the defunct Jabhat al-Nusra.

The United States has repeatedly killed suspected al-Qaeda affiliates in Idlib using a non-explosive Hellfire missile dubbed the R9-X “Ninja,” named for the six blades that deploy from the missile as it strikes a target.

The weapon is designed to assassinate targets while minimizing harm to bystanders.

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