Syrian activists have reported that the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) has reportedly been killed on Sunday in Salamiya, on the outskirts of Hama, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
In a statement, an opposition activist claimed that “Imad Ahmad, a Palestinian national, the commander-in-chief of the ISIS, was killed last Sunday in the eastern suburbs of Hama"
Ahmad was apparently killed in a botched attack on regime forces, in which the Islamist group - which formed as a result of a merger between Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda-linked Islamists in Syria - attempted an assault on a regime checkpoint. According to the activist "the operation failed because the car bomb went off in the wrong place,."
“After the suicide explosion immediately ISIS elements rushed [to the site] thinking the explosion was successful, but the operation completely failed and we were assured that more than 30 elements from the ISIS were killed due to the mistake,” he claimed.
Following the botched raid, ISIS issued a statement claiming responsibility - and then promptly retracted it as it became clear that the operation had gone awry.
According to the same source, ISIS also denied another of their own operations in Salamiya on Sunday, when mortar shells they fired missed their intended target and killed a number of civilians
ISIS is one of the most powerful opposition forces in Syria, pooling the resources of well-entrenched Al Qaeda networks in the region and calling on a large pool of foreign fighters from across the Muslim world, as well as a number of Islamists from western countries.
The Al Qaeda franchise has been implicated in a number of atrocities, including the slaughter of hundreds of Kurdish civilians during battles with Kurdish militias in the north of the country.
But the group has apparently learned from the failure of its bloody operations in Iraq, which alienated them from the local population and trigger a serious backlash by popular "awakening councils." In recent weeks it has attempted to soften its image in an attempt to win hearts and minds - holding stand up comedy shows and handing out toys to local children.