Sources on the ground in Syria say that the leader of one of the country’s most powerful anti-Assad rebel groups has been killed, according to The Independent.
The war in Syria began as a civil war between supporters of ruler Assad and those who wished to depose him. The anti-Assad rebels included ISIS, other Jihadists, and Kurds. There were also moderate rebels, who fought with the backing of the United States and other Western powers.
As the conflict wore on, Vladimir Putin’s Russia stepped in to assist with the destruction of ISIS rebels and to reinstate Assad, who is Putin’s ally, as ruler of Syria. On the latter point, Putin was at odds with Barack Obama, who has declared “Assad must go.”
Following the devastating Paris terror attacks this year, the United States and other Western powers upped their involvement, sending troops and special forces to Syria with the aim of destroying the ISIS cohort of rebels.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the terror attacks in the French capital, which killed 130 people, according to news.com.au.
Syria rebel leader Zahran Alloush 'killed in air strike', sources on the ground say https://t.co/CFfRVI7fX4— The Independent (@Independent) December 25, 2015
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the killing of Zahran Allouch may “imperil planned peace talks.” Allouch’s group “Islam Army” was one of those fighting against hated leader Assad, and the group was thrown into disarray following their leader’s death in an airstrike outside Damascus.
It is thought that the death was the result of an operation by Syrian forces using newly-provided Russian missiles. Putin has provided President Bashar al-Assad’s forces with significant support throughout the conflict, and the formidable Russian air force has completed 5,240 sorties since the country joined the conflict three months ago.
The strike that killed Syrian rebel leader Allouch also killed eight other fighters after bombs hit the Islam Army rebel group’s secret headquarters.
Game changing breaking news (if true): Rebel leader Zahran Aloush of Jaysh al-Islam killed in raid in Damascus suburbs #Syria— Fadi Salem (@FadiSalem) December 25, 2015
Critics accused Allouch of holding sectarian views and claim that he uses brutal tactics similar to those of Islamic State. Supporters say that his group Islam Army is one of the most effective of those fighting against Assad, whose poor human rights record prompted many to declare that the Syrian leader ought to be ousted
Islam Army had recently managed to negotiate a fragile pace plan, involving talks with delegates from Assad’s government. Prior to that, the Syrian government has always said it will not negotiate with Allouch and his Islam Army as it considers them terrorists.
It is unclear whether the talks will proceed now that the Syrian rebel leader has been killed, but many have declared Allouch’s death a blow to the fragile Syrian peace process.
Mr. Allouch has been criticized for using heavily sectarian language when speaking about about Alawite and Shiite ethnic groups. The now-deceased rebel leader stated that the Alawite and Shiite ought to be “cleansed” from greater Syria.
Allouch raised eyebrows in the West by allying himself with an Al Qaeda affiliate called Al Nusrah. Allouch was noted as a charismatic leader who rallied his men effectively, and his death amounts to a victory for enemies Putin and Assad.
Commander of one of the most effective rebel groups fighting Syria's al-Assad killed in air strike. https://t.co/PEKskBhhyX— CNN International (@cnni) December 26, 2015
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]