Although the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) receives the bulk of American news coverage, the al-Qaida offshoot known in Syria as al-Nusra Front is just as fierce, bloodthirsty and deadly as any of the major Islamist groups in the Middle East and Africa.
According to the Homeland Security News Wire (HSNW), Khaled al-Hamad –a/k/a Abu Sakkar — a top-ranked member of al-Nusra Front was killed by gunmen near the Turkish border. He became a feared and hated jihadist when he was filmed eating part of the dead body of a Syrian soldier fighting for the Assad regime.
The jihadist cannibal quickly gained fame in the Middle East for the shocking video of his eating human flesh when it was posted on the Internet in 2013. Anti-terrorism experts believed that video showed the lengths to which the Islamic terrorists would go to instill terror in potential targets of the global jihad.
Several reports have announced that al-Hamad was assassinated on Tuesday in Harem, a small town in northern Syria. But the cannibal-jihadist wasn’t killed by the U.S., NATO, the Russians, or the Syrian army. A Twitter message blamed al-Nusra Front’s Sunni ally, the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, for al-Hamad’s killing.
The social media message claims he was tracked down by Ahrar fighters to a checkpoint in Harem where he was killed in a hail of gunfire, according to HSNW on Thursday. The belief is that al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham were closely linked to al-Qaida and each other in northwest Syria. In fact, according to HSNW, they called their coalition Jaysh al-Fateh
In the spring of 2015, the jihadist coalition was successful in pushing out President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces from Idlib, a province in Syria.
The two Islamist groups, however became less friendly during peace talks among the different factions in Syria. It’s said that Ahrar is a more moderate group than al-Nusra which may have led to the killing of al-Hamad.
Still, leaders of the Ahrar group agreed to investigate al-Hamad’s killing, and vowed to Nusra that the perpetrators would be hunted down and brought before a Sharia court. Ahrar also agreed to relax its fighters at the checkpoints within the province.
“I don’t think many people will miss al-Hamad. He was not merely a religious fanatic, but a homicidal maniac — a classic psychopathic killer. The videotaped cannibalism scene showed him eating either the heart, lung, or liver of the dead Syria soldier. It wasn’t known who had killed him or if he was butchered while still alive,” said former counterterrorism unit commander, Det. Sgt. Dave Kilpatrick.
Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters during a press briefing that the target of a United States airstrike in northwestern Syria was a meeting of several leaders of the al-Nusra Front, including the group’s own propagandist and spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri.
“We assess that [al-Qaida] senior leader Abu Firas al-Suri was in that meeting and we are working to confirm his death,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said at the press briefing.