Zahran Alloush was killed Thursday, reportedly during an air strike
His rebel group confirms death, appoints a successor, Abu Homam Essam al-Boudani
The commander of one of the most effective rebel forces battling Syria’s government has been killed in an air strike, a monitoring group and Syrian state media reported Friday.
Zahran Alloush, general commander of Jaysh al-Islam, was killed in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, his rebels group confirmed.
The group made Abu Homam Essam al-Boudani the new commander, Jaysh al-Islam announced in a video message.
Alloush and four senior-level officers were killed Thursday when their high-level meeting was bombed by warplanes, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It is unclear whether the Syrian military or Russian planes carried out the strike, the group said. Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, reported it was a Syrian special operation and aired aerial footage it said was from the strike.
Syria’s state-run news agency praised the 44-year-old’s death, saying “the terrorist Alloush was killed during air raids on terror dens.”
The military chief was a jailed Salafi activist, who after his release from prison in 2011 established a rebel battalion to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The group rose to prominence when it claimed a July 2012 bombing on National Security Headquarters in Damascus that killed a number of top government officials, and Alloush became one of the most influential rebel leaders in Syria and a highly wanted man.
When ISIS took parts of Syria, Alloush and his group countered their expansion in some suburbs of Damascus.
Earlier this year, Jaysh al-Islam released a video showing their fighters in orange jumpsuits executing ISIS prisoners.
Alloush has long been accused of receiving Saudi funding from Salafi fundamentalists.
Jaysh al-Islam, whose fighters number in the thousands, participated earlier this month in the Riyadh conference, which laid the groundwork for future Saudi-led peace talks.
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.