A report by the United Nations includes new details concerning the dispute between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including the role played by two veteran operatives living in Iran. The UN’s member states say that HTS is still in “contact” with al Qaeda’s leadership despite their heated disagreements, and that al Qaeda has even reinforced HTS with “military and explosives experts” sent from Afghanistan.
The US killed al Qaeda veteran Abu al Khayr al Masri in a drone strike in Idlib, Syria in late February. Masri was identified as al Qaeda’s “general deputy” in July 2016. He worked to unite Syrian rebel groups under a common banner.