Beirut: At least 81 people, including 23 Al-Qaeda fighters, were killed in Russian strikes on a prison complex run by the jihadist group in Syria’s northwest, a monitor said today in a new toll.
The strikes on Saturday targeted an Al-Nusra Front building near a popular market in northwestern Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The complex in Maarat Al-Numan housed the group’s religious court and a jail.
The dead included 23 Al-Nusra fighters and six non-jihadist rebels who were in the building.
Another 52 people — including civilians and prisoners in the complex — were also killed.
At least one child and two women were among the civilians killed in the strikes.
Russian warplanes have been conducting air strikes against the Islamic State organisation and “other terrorist groups” in Syria since September 30.
Although Al-Nusra and IS are both jihadist organisations, they are fierce rivals and regularly clash in Syria.
Al-Nusra also has tense relationships with non-jihadist rebel groups that oppose its extreme interpretation of Islamic law.
In Idlib, it heads a coalition of Islamist and rebel groups known as the Army of Conquest which has expelled regime forces from the province.
Syria’s conflict first erupted with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011 but expanded into a war that has left more than 260,000 people dead.