Thursday 24 May 2018

Controversial Syrian general is killed by Isil

Brig Gen Issam Zahreddine. Photo: Getty Images
Brig Gen Issam Zahreddine. Photo: Getty Images

Josie Ensor

A senior Syrian commander and one of President Bashar al-Assad's most trusted generals has been killed during an operation against Isil.

Brig Gen Issam Zahreddine, a field commander in the elite Republican Guard, died after a convoy he was travelling in hit a landmine yesterday morning as it drove through Hawija Saqr, near Deir Ezzor province.

The general, who was in his late 50s, had been leading 7,000 troops in the battle to retake the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from the jihadists.

He also led offensives against armed opposition in the central Homs province and near the capital, Damascus, in the earlier days of the conflict.

His death will be a major blow to the regime, which has lost huge numbers of high-ranking soldiers and generals over the course of the six-year war.

He was a controversial figure who was pictured last year posing next to hanging corpses which appeared to have been cut into pieces.

He is named in a lawsuit filed by the family of the late war correspondent Marie Colvin, who was killed in an artillery attack in Homs in February 2012. The Colvin family alleges that after learning of 'The Sunday Times' journalist's whereabouts, he ordered a targeted artillery attack on the makeshift opposition media centre where she had been staying.

Landmines

Meanwhile, US-backed Syrian forces were removing landmines and clearing roads in the northern city of Raqqa yesterday, a day after commanders said they had driven Isil from its de facto capital.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said preparations were underway for a formal declaration of the city's liberation.

The SDF said on Tuesday that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that its troops have taken full control of the city. The US-led coalition cautioned that the clearing operations would continue, saying some 100 militants may still be hiding in the city.

Yesterday, the spokesman for the coalition, Col Ryan Dillon, tweeted that 95pc of the city is now under full control as clearing operations continue.

The coalition stressed that the SDF has been successful in holding onto captured territory.

Irish Independent

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