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Syrian army confirms killing of Islam Army leader near Damascus

DAMASCUS,  — The Syrian Army General Command confirmed the killing of the leader of the Islam Army rebel group by a Syrian airstrike east of the capital Damascus on Friday, according to a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

“Following a series of precise monitoring operations, and based on accurate intelligence as well as the cooperation with honorable people, the air force in the Syrian Arab Army carried out a qualitative airstrike, targeting the positions of the terrorist groups in the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus, which led to the killing of the terrorist Zahran Alloush,” the military said in a statement late on Friday.

Alloush was killed along with a large number of other militant leaders, said the statement, adding that “the operation comes in the framework of the military campaign against terrorism.”

The military said the war on terrorist groups in Syria will continue, urging the armed men to lay down their weapons.

In an earlier report, Arab media outlets and activists said Alloush was killed by Russian airstrike, which later turned to be a Syrian airstrike.

Alloush, who was born in 1971, was an active Syrian rebel leader during the Syrian nearly five-year-old conflict.

The man was the commander of Jaysh al-Islam, Arabic for Islam Army, a Saudi-backed militant group located in several Syrian areas, mainly in the Eastern Ghouta Countryside of the capital Damascus.

The Islam Army was the main rebel group responsible for the daily mortar attacks against civilian areas inside Damascus.

Alloush, who is from the rebel bastion of Douma in Ghouta, is married to three women. He is the son of Sheikh Abdullah Alloush, a Salafist preacher from Damascus who lives in Saudi Arabia.

The 45-year-old commander, who had attended the Islamic Law School at Damascus University and obtained a Master Degree in Islamic Law from Saudi Arabia, was arrested by the Syrian Intelligence in 2009 on charges of weapons possession. He was released in 2011 as part of a general amnesty three months into the Syrian conflict.

Following his release, he established a rebel group and rapidly expanded it till it became what is now known as the Islam Army, the most powerful rebel group operating in the Damascus area, with its central leadership in Douma.

Fears have now sparked among the Damascenes about possible retaliation from the Islam Army for the killing of their leader, amid expectations that fresh and intensified mortar attack could be triggered against Damascus after Alloush’s death.

Hasan al-Hasan, a Syrian military expert, told Xinhua that Alloush is deemed as the first man of Saudi Arabia in Syria, as his group is known of being supported by Saudi Arabia.

He said the group will now need time before re-operating as it has become “without a head.”

The killing of Alloush has dealt a strong blow to the rebel groups operating in the surrounding of Damascus, amid reports that the Islam Army has named a man called Abu Homam al-Bwaidani as the successor of Alloush.

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