On March 15, Tahir al-Omar, a propagandist of al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), offered a bounty for killing Russian journalists escorting the Russian-Turkish joint patrol on the M4 highway in northwest Syria.
In a post on his Telegram channel, al-Omar said that he would pay up to $25,000 to any militant who would kill Evgeny Poddubnyy or Oleg Blokhin.
Poddubnyy is the head of the state-run Russia-24’s bureau in the Middle East and North Africa, while Blokhin is a reporter of the Abkhazian Network News Agency (ANNA). Both journalists have been covering the conflict in Syria for years.
“The heroes of the anti-tank [squads], the snipers and the Mujahedeen in general anyone who would kill any of them [the Russian journalists] will be granted a prize of 25 thousand Dollars from a one side,” al-Omar’s post, which included photos of Poddubnyy and Blokhin, reads.
Opposition activists raised al-Omar’s prize, offering up to $50,000 for any militant who would snipe Poddubnyy. The activists also offered a total of $100,000 for the capture of the said journalist or any Russian service member taking part in the joint patrol.
Russian and Turkish forces were not able to conduct the joint patrol on the highway. Only a limited patrol was carried out to the west of Saraqib city in southeast Idlib because the Turkish side failed to secure highway.
The failure of the patrol and the threats against Russian journalists and service members were not a surprise. HTS rejected the recent Russian-Turkish agreement earlier this month. The terrorist group also vowed to keep fighting against Russian forces.
The terrorist group’s hostile behavior and threats could sabotage the Russian-Turkish agreement. In this case, Syrian government forces and their Russian and Iranian allies will likely resume their operations in Greater Idlib.
- Turkish Troops Fail To Secure M4 Highway Ahead Of Joint Patrol With Russian Forces. Patrol Is Limited To A Few Km Only (Photos, Videos)