Ammar Shaaban Salkho, the military leader of the Islamist rebel group ‘Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki’, which operates in the Aleppo region, has reportedly been killed whilst fighting the Syrian Army in the Handarat Camp on the northern outskirts of Aleppo city.
Both government and rebel sources have acknowledged the event, with a number of rebel social-media outlets mourning his death, though the group is yet to issue an official statement.
The al-Zenki rebel group has received much in terms of media attention recently after a video of them beheading a child was exposed online, and in which Ammar Shaaban Salkho can be seen participating in the execution.
News of the rebel leader’s death comes at a difficult time for the militants in East Aleppo as the Syrian Army has only just captured the Bani Zaid neighbourhood and a number of remaining sites along the Castello road. Alongside the YPG’s move into the youth housing complex, these latest government gains have definitively imposed what had been, for the past week, only a partial siege of the eastern rebel-held neighbourhoods.
It is thought that the rebel retreat from the Bani Zaid district was due to a combination of strategic calculation (in an effort to prevent these forces from being cut-off from the bulk of East Aleppo’s militants) and the escape of the leadership of the FSA’s ‘16th division’.
In light of this, the recent death of al-Zenki’s leader adds to the woes of the remaining rebel forces in Aleppo who now face the twin threats of a full siege as well as the potential breakdown of their leadership structures.