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The New Arab

Syria al-Qaeda affiliate denies Russian strike injured leader Joulani

Russia had said Abu Mohammed al-Joulani lost an arm and was in critical condition [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 October, 2017

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Syrian rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has denied its leader, Mohammed al-Joulani, had been injured in a Russian air raid, saying he was carrying out his duties as normal.
Syrian rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has denied its leader, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, was injured in a Russian air raid, saying he was carrying out his duties as normal.

HTS made the statement on Wednesday on Telegram hours after Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Jolani had "received multiple serious shrapnel wounds, lost an arm and is in a critical condition".

"Hayat Tahrir al-Sham denies what was circulated in the media about the injury of Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Joulani and confirms that the sheikh is in good health and is carrying out fully all the duties entrusted to him," the statement said.

The HTS is dominated by the Fateh al-Sham faction and was previously known as the al-Nusra Front before renouncing its ties to al-Qaeda.

The group controls most of the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

Russian claimed that 12 field commanders including Joulani's security chief were also killed along with some 50 guards in the strike.

More than 10 fighters received moderate and serious blast injuries, the defence ministry spokesman said, adding that Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used to target the extremists.

The defence ministry spokesman said the strike was the result of a special operation to avenge an attack on Russian military police in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone on September 18.

In the past few months, Russia has claimed to have killed several top extremist commanders.

Russia reported in June its jets had possibly killed the leader of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a bombing raid near the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, and it said in July it was struggling to confirm if he was dead or alive.

Earlier this month, IS released an audio recording of what it said was its leader Baghdadi.

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