The Defense Ministry in Moscow says that a Russian air strike in Syria has killed 12 Al-Nusra Front field commanders and gravely wounded the group's leader.
The air strike was launched after Russia's military intelligence obtained the time and place of a gathering of the Al-Nusra Front leaders, among them its chief, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, on October 3, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on October 4.
Jabhat al-Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, was the name of a militant group that was described as Al-Qaeda's branch in Syria. In 2016, it shed its status as Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and changed its name to the Fateh al-Sham Front.
Since 2017, it is a predominant part of a coalition of militant factions called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
"As a result of the strike, the Nusra Front leader, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, sustained numerous shrapnel wounds and, having lost an arm, is in a critical condition, according to information from several independent sources," Konashenkov said.
He added that 12 of the group's field commanders were killed, together with around 50 guards. The information could not be independently confirmed.
The group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham denied the claim that Golani was injured, saying that he is in "good health." and continues to carry out his duties.
Russia has backed President Bashar al-Assad's government throughout the more than six-year war in Syria, and stepped up its involvement by launching a campaign of air strikes in September 2015. It has also increased its military presence on the ground.