Suicide Bombing in Syria Kills Co-Founder of Al-Qaeda Connected Group

The co-founder of the country’s largest al-Qaida-linked organization, which controls most of the northwest, was killed when a suicide bomber triggered explosives on April 4th in Syria, according to a war report.

Abu Maria al-Qahtani was murdered by a remotely detonated bomb, according to some activists who contested the origins of the blast. The terrorist organization Nusra Front, which Al-Qahtani helped form in Syria, changed its name to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, claiming it had cut affiliations with al-Qaida.

The bomber approached al-Qahtani’s guesthouse in the town of Sarmada in Idlib province late in the evening and detonated his explosives, according to reports.

A member of the Islamic State group attacked al-Qahtani and murdered him with an explosive belt, according to Abdul Rahim Atoun, chairman of the Supreme Fatwa Council in Tahrir al-Sham.

Al-Qahtani was taken to a Hospital in a hurry after the explosion, but he succumbed to his injuries, according to reports. Two other visitors to al-Qahtani’s residence were reportedly injured.

Nine people were injured, including al-Qahtani’s bodyguard and eight other guests, according to a hospital official.

Longtime al-Qaida member and Iraqi national al-Qahtani fought in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led war that deposed Saddam Hussein. Not long after the brutal civil war in Syria broke out in 2011, he relocated there with other high-ranking al-Qaida members.

U.S. sanctions on Qahtani went into effect in 2012 because he was wanted by the government for his alleged 2011 trip to Syria to spread al-Qaeda doctrine and his subsequent positions as leader of the al-Nusra Front.

Reports show Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), also known as the Organization for the Liberation of the Levant, is an opposition group that has existed since the beginning of the Syrian civil war and has been a formidable adversary.

The US State Department updated the group’s classification as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in May 2018, expanding the list that already included its predecessor, the al-Qaeda offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra.  Despite publicly splitting from al-Qaeda in 2017, HTS continues to adhere to a Salafi-jihadist ideology and is now best understood as a Syrian terrorist group.