Syrian Jihadists Deny Their Leader was Killed

Al-Nusra Front says its leader is in good health, after his death was reported over the weekend.

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Elad Benari,

Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group
Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group
AFP photo

Syria's jihadist rebel group Al-Nusra Front said on Saturday its leader is in good health, after his death was reported over the weekend.

“What was claimed by one channel alone, regarding what it claimed was the killing of the emir of Al-Nusra Front, was a lie,” said the group in a statement quoted by Al Arabiya.

Syrian state television reported on Friday that the leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani, had been killed in coastal Latakia province.

State news agency SANA quickly withdrew an alert saying the same thing.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors the fighting in Syria, had said senior that A;-Nusra Front leaders contacted by activists in Latakia and the eastern Deir el-Zour province denied that al-Jawlani had been killed.

In April, al-Jawlani pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Al-Nusra is one of 13 factions in a radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force and declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.

Members of Al-Nusra and other Syrian rebels groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Some of the Islamist groups have attempted to soften their image in an attempt to win hearts and minds - holding stand up comedy shows and handing out toys to local children.