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Top Ahrar al-Sham leader killed in Homs ambush

Abu Rateb al-Homsi's killing comes after a string of unsolved murders of opposition figures in Homs and killing of Jaish al-Islam leader
Members of Ahrar al-Sham, one of the biggest forces on the ground in Syria (AFP)

The leader of Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham in Homs province has been killed in an ambush, according to a statement from the group and local media reports.

The killing of Abu Rateb al-Homsi on Tuesday evening comes just weeks after Zahran Alloush, leader of rebel group Jaish al-Islam, was killed in an air strike claimed by the Syrian government, and follows a string of deaths among local rebel leaders and imams in the central Syrian province in recent months.

"Our hero and leader left this world today at the hands of treachery during a critical time for our people and this region of the world," a statement from Ahrar al-Sham, released on social media, said.

Homsi was reportedly travelling through a village in northern Homs with his wife when two gunmen on motorcycles fired more than 50 bullets at their car, according to pro-rebel website Syria Mubasher.

According to the website’s account, the rebel leader was shot in the head during the attack. His wife was also seriously injured.

Homsi had reportedly called in recent days for all factions and brigades operating in northern Homs to unite.

After spending five years in the Sednaya Prison near Damascus, Homsi was released early on in the conflict and went on to lead the Liwa al-Haqq rebel group before it merged with Ahrar al-Sham in 2014. 

During last month's meeting of opposition groups in Riyadh, the first attempt in five years of war to bring together various factions that make up the opposition, Ahrar al-Sham, one of the biggest opposition forces fighting in Syria, signed an agreement supporting negotiations with the Syrian government, despite threatening to walk out of the talks.

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