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.
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.