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French jihadist killed in Syria clashes: monitor

A French jihadist has been killed in fighting with Syrian regime forces in northwestern Syria, a war monitor told AFP on Monday.

The extremist, who used the pseudonym Abu Hamza, was killed in Jabal Al-Zawiya on Sunday in Idlib province and was buried there the next day, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Hamza’s real name could not be verified.

He was part of Firqatul Ghuraba, a group of foreign jihadists in Syria’s last main rebel-held region of Idlib, said the British-based monitor which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.

The group is led by Omar Omsen, also known as Omar Diaby, a French national of Senegalese descent suspected of funneling francophone fighters to Syria. He is wanted on a French arrest warrant.

The French jihadists are mostly fighting alongside Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate which, with other rebel groups, controls Idlib.

Over the past decade, thousands of extremists from Europe travelled to Syria to fight alongside jihadist groups, but with Russian and Iranian support Damascus has clawed back much of the territory it lost earlier in the conflict.

The war in Syria erupted in 2011 when the government brutally repressed pro-democracy protests. Since then nearly half a million people have been killed. Almost half of Syria’s pre-war population have been displaced.