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Al-Qaeda Claims Kyrgyz Sniper Injured In U.S. Drone Strike Regains Consciousness

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

A screen grab of a White Minaret tweet showing an IS sniper named as "Ali from Kyrgyzstan"

A screen grab of a White Minaret tweet showing an IS sniper named as "Ali from Kyrgyzstan"

A Kyrgyz militant injured in a U.S. drone strike against Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra has "regained consciousness from a coma," according to Nusra's Russian-language media wing White Minaret.

White Minaret tweeted a photograph of the sniper, whom it named as "Ali from Kyrgyzstan," on August 18.

The group provided a fuller explanation on its VKontakte page, saying that the Kyrgyz militant had "lost a leg as the result of a rocket strike from an American unmanned Predator" drone.

Targeting Nusra

White Minaret did not say when the drone strike that allegedly hit "Ali from Kyrgyzstan" occurred, nor how it had evidence that the drone involved was a Predator.

Neither did the Nusra media group disclose whether Ali was hospitalized in Syria or whether, as is often the case when militants are injured, he was taken to Turkey for medical treatment.

The United States has carried out a number of attacks on Nusra militants in Syria, including against the Al-Qaeda affiliate's elite snipers. In September, U.S. air strikes in the northern province of Aleppo reportedly killed 50 Nusra militants including a senior Nusra sniper named Abu Yusef al-Turki.

Turki, 47, trained other Nusra snipers and could have been linked to the sniper "Ali from Kyrgyzstan."

A U.S. unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone was shot down over Latakia Province in March and could have been scouting for Al-Qaeda-linked militants, reports suggested.

More recently, the Pentagon announced on August 3 that it launched armed drone missions out of Turkey's Incirlik Air Base. The United States also launched air strikes against Nusra militants who were attacking U.S.-trained Syrian rebels.

Katiba Sayfullah

The Kyrgyz militant was from Nusra's foreign fighter battalion Katiba Sayfullah, according to White Minaret.

An Uzbek-led battalion whose ranks include a number of militants from Central Asia as well as Arabic-speaking foreign fighters and a small number of North Caucasians, Katiba Sayfullah is based in northern Aleppo province.

It is not known how many people from Kyrgyzstan have gone to Syria.

The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (GKNB) said on July 27 that more than 350 people had gone to Syria from Kyrgyzstan, including around 80 women, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

While media reports usually refer to Kyrgyz who have joined the Islamic State (IS) group, Kyrgyz militants are also fighting alongside other groups in Syria, including Nusra.

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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