Associated Press Service
Syrian militant groups mourned Saturday the death of a powerful rebel commander who was killed in an airstrike near Damascus before naming a top military commander as his successor.
Syrian rebels and the government said Friday that Zahran Alloush, founder of the Army of Islam, was killed in a raid that targeted the group’s headquarters in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus.
Alloush’s death is a significant blow to the armed opposition, bolstering President Bashar al-Assad ahead of new peace talks scheduled for early 2016.
The Army of Islam appointed a top field commander, Essam al-Buwaydhani, a field commander known as Abu Hammam, as Alloush’s replacement on Saturday.
The strike, which also killed other senior members of the group, came days after the United Nations passed a resolution endorsing a path to peace in Syria.
“The martyrdom of Sheikh Zahran Allouch should be a turning point in the history of the revolution and rebel groups should realize they are facing a war of extermination by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime,” said Labib Nahhas, a senior member of the Ahrar al-Sham group, which also lost commanders in the airstrike.
“The next stage will witness the liquidation of those leaders who began the uprising,” wrote Abu Hassan al-Muhajer, another senior member of the group on Twitter, according to The Associated Press.
Other insurgent groups, including the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front lamented Alloush’s killing.