Hard-hit by an attack carried out by a Russian Su-34 bomber on Tuesday, Jabhat Al-Nusra, a Salafist jihadist terrorist organization in Syria, has lost 49 of its militants, including seven field commanders, in northwestern Idlib province of Syria, according to the Russian defense ministry.
"As a result of the accurate attack by the Su-34 bomber, 49 militants, including seven leaders of the eastern sector of An-Nusra were killed," said Major-General Igor Konashenkov, according to reports by Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The Russian air force launched an attack on positions of Al Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat Al Nusra, after Russian military intelligence received information about a gathering of Al Nusra’s field leaders in Idlib on October 3.
“The leader of the Jabhat Al Nusra group, Abu Mohammed Al Julani, is in a coma after the Russian airstrike,” announced Konashenkov.
Russia’s military has been targeting Al Nusra as part of its measures to eliminate terrorists that organized an armed attack on a Russian military police observation post located on the border of the de-escalation zone in Idlib, on September 18.
Russia’s air force was reported to have used in the attack a high-powered air munition to destroy what was the largest underground arsenal belonging to the group, located in the Abu al-Duhur settlement in Idlib, where terrorists were storing over one ton of ammunition for both barreled and rocket artillery.
Al Nusra Front is just one of several jihadist militant organizations that have popped up in Syria alongside the Islamic State, known as IS or ISIS, since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. The group announced its formation on January 23, 2012 as the union of Syrian jihadists, whose ultimate goal is to oust President Bashar Al Assad’s regime and establish an Islamic emirate under sharia, or Islamic, law.
The United States, the United Nations Security Council and many other countries, including Russia, have designated the group as a terrorist organization. The group was considered to be Al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, until its formal separation and rebranding as Jabhat Fateh Al Sham, or “Front for the Conquest of the Levant,” in July 2016. (The Levant refers to the lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, including modern-day Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.) However, violent clashes with Ahrar Al Sham and other rebel groups in January 2017 pushed the Al Nusra Front to merge with four other groups, to become Tahrir Al Sham.
While Tuesday’s strike by Russia was significant, it was not a first. On September 22, the Russian defense ministry released video showing what it claimed to be strikes against other positions held by Al Nusra, also in Idlib. Missiles launched from a Russian submarine in the Mediterranean reportedly hit Al Nusra training bases and armored vehicles that were allegedly involved in an attempt to take hostage 29 Russian military police officers in the north of Hama province, located in central Syria.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense claims that Russian air strikes in Syria between September 19 and 29 have killed 2,359 militants and wounded another 2,700, including 16 field commanders. These numbers include over 400 Russian citizens that have pledged allegiance to terrorist groups. Sixty seven militant outposts, 51 armories, 27 tanks, 21 rocket launchers and nearly 200 specialized vehicles belonging to jihadist groups were reportedly destroyed as well, according to RT news agency.