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Saudi cleric escapes 'assassination attempt' in rebel-controlled Syria Open in fullscreen

Paul McLoughlin

Saudi cleric escapes 'assassination attempt' in rebel-controlled Syria

Abdullah al-Muhaysini is one of the most well-known foreign clerics in Syria [Twitter]

Date of publication: 17 June, 2017

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Syrian-based Abdullah al-Muhaysini says he escaped an assassination plot after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives next to the Saudi cleric's car.

A Syrian-based Saudi cleric cheated death again this week, after the second alleged assassination attempt against him since he was named on a "terrorist blacklist" by Riyadh early in July.

Abdullah al-Muhaysini says he escaped without injury when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives close to his armoured vehicle in rebel-held Idlib province.

Muhaysini told followers in an online video that he was unharmed but reports suggest the driver of his vehicle died in the blast.

"We got in the car and a man approached us wearing a suicide vest. He came close to the car and blew himself up," he said, according to Reuters.

The radical sheikh arrived to Syria in 2013, and has been prominant in jihadi factions opposed to Bashar al-Assad.

Muhaysini is a popular figure among Salafi-jihadis and frequently makes speeches from Idlib which are widely shared by supporters on social media.

A self-styled Salafi preacher, Muhaysini has been spotted with a rifle in hand and urging rebel fighters to carry out suicide bombings and "wage jihad" against the Assad regime.

He has also served as a religious judge and accused of sanctioning the killing of captured prisoners.

Muhaysini did not say who he believed carried out the attack but earlier this week there were unconfirmed reports he was shot in the leg by another rebel fighter. 

On Friday, the cleric was targeted by a suicide bomber as he left a mosque, casting some doubt on the earlier claims.

Photos of a vehicle punctured by shrapnel were shared on social media with an image claiming to be of a dead or injured person from the blast also shared on social media.

There has also been a string of assassinations in rebel-held Idlib against opposition commanders and influential personalities, believed to have been carried out by Islamic State group operatives.

The restless rebel-held province has also seen a number of Free Syrian Army officers kidnapped by militants believed to be part of al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham this week.

Some have suggested Muhaysini's alleged links to Qatar could have singled him out for attack, with Saudi Arabia placing him on a "terrorist blacklist" last week.

Qatar has been under a blockade by Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies after Riyadh accused Doha of "supporting terrorism", a claim the Gulf emirate strongly denies.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to support rebel groups in Syria who are fighting against the Iranian and Russian-backed Assad regime.

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