This article has been updated to include information from a US Central Command press release that claimed the targeting of five Al Nusrah Front locations.
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has posted a series of photos allegedly showing the aftermath of the US-led coalition’s airstrikes in Idlib. The photos were posted on a Twitter feed belonging to Al Nusrah’s “correspondents’ network.” US Central Command later confirmed it launched five airstrikes against the so-called “Khorasan Group.”
Since the airstrikes first began in Syria on the night of Sept. 22, most of the coalition’s bombs and missiles have targeted positions, equipment, weapons, and fighters belonging to the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that is Al Nusrah’s jihadist rival in Syria.
The US government announced on Sept. 23 that some of its initial strikes hit al Qaeda’s “Khorasan group,” which is led by senior al Qaeda leaders and has been plotting attacks against the West. The Khorasan group was embedded within the Al Nusrah Front, with some of the group’s leaders doubling as officials in Al Nusrah.
Since those strikes against the Khorasan group, however, Al Nusrah’s positions have not been in the coalition’s crosshairs until yesterday. The jihadist group has not claimed that the coalition has bombed its fighters or facilities since Sept. 23, when Al Nusrah released a set of photos similar to those tweeted earlier today.
While the US and its partners have launched hundreds of bombings against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the US government had not, until today, announced any additional strikes against Al Nusrah since the first day of the bombing campaign in Syria.
That has changed. Today US Central Command issued a press release announcing the targeting of “five Khorasan Group targets in the vicinity of Sarmada, Syria, using bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft.”
“We are still assessing the outcome of the attack, but have initial indications that it resulted in the intended effects by striking terrorists and destroying or severely damaging several Khorasan Group vehicles and buildings assessed to be meeting and staging areas, IED-making facilities and training facilities,” the press release continued.
Al Nusrah claims that its photos, seen below, show one of its headquarters in Harem, a small city in the Idlib province that sits on the border with Turkey, after coalition missiles leveled it. Al Nusrah argues that civilians were the airstrikes’ principal victims, but this is a self-serving claim.
Since late October, Al Nusrah has gone on the offensive against the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front (SRF), capturing several towns and villages from the rebel group. The SRF, which is backed by the West, and Al Nusrah have long been allied against Bashar al Assad’s regime. But Al Nusrah turned on the SRF and its leader, Jamal Maarouf, in Idlib, accusing the group of attacking Syrian civilians. This was likely a pretext for Al Nusrah’s advance on SRF-controlled positions.
It is not publicly known if the new round of airstrikes against Al Nusrah has anything to do with its recent fighting against the SRF in Idlib.
Al Nusrah Front photos purportedly showing the aftermath of coalition airstrikes in Idlib