1244 GMT January 19, 2019
Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the strike was the result of a special operation to avenge an attack on Russian military police in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria on September 18, AFP reported.
"As a result of the strike, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra Abu Mohammed al-Jolani received multiple serious shrapnel wounds, lost an arm and is in a critical condition, according to several independent sources," Konashenkov said in a statement.
He said 12 field commanders including al-Jolani's security chief were also killed along with some 50 guards.
More than 10 terrorists received moderate and serious blast injuries, he said, adding that Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used to target the terrorists.
The Moscow-led forces were able to hunt down the terror group using data obtained by Russian military intelligence on Tuesday and struck just when the terrorists convened for a meeting.
The Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, shed its status as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate in 2016 and became Fateh al-Sham Front.
Since 2017, it dominates a coalition of terrorist factions. The alliance controls most of the northwestern province of Idlib after expelling former allies earlier this year.
Over the past months Russia has claimed to have killed several top terrorist commanders.
Russia reported in June its jets had possibly killed the leader of the Daesh group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a bombing raid near the Daesh’s stronghold of Raqa in Syria and said in July it was struggling to confirm if he was dead or alive.
Earlier this month the Daesh group released an audio recording of what it said was its leader al-Baghdadi.
Last month Russia claimed to have killed several top Daesh commanders in an airstrike including the US-trained "minister of war" Gulmurod Khalimov.
Since the assault on Russian military police, Idlib has been the target of heavy airstrikes by the Syria military and Russia.
The Russian Defense Ministry said three officers were wounded in the September 18 attack and would be decorated.
Idlib province and some adjacent areas form one of four so-called de-escalation zones agreed in May by Turkey and Russia and Iran.
Russia stepped in to support the government of Bashar al-Assad in September 2015 and has helped government forces win back large parts of the country.
Over the past weeks, Russia has lost a number of officers in the conflict including a general, Valery Asapov, believed to be the country's highest-ranking casualty of the Syrian campaign.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.