12 July 2013, 12:33

Assassination of FSA commander is declaration of war in Syria

сирия война разрушения хомс

Syria

Syria

The assassination of a top Free Syrian Army commander by militants linked to al Qaeda is tantamount to a declaration of war, as FSA rebels open a new front between Western-backed forces and Islamists in Syria's civil war.

The announcement is the latest sign of disarray in the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has regained the upper hand more than two years into an insurgency that grew out of Arab Spring-inspired pro-democracy protests.

It follows growing rivalries between the FSA and the Islamists, who have sometimes joined forces on the battlefield, and coincides with attempts by the Western and Arab-backed FSA to allay fears any US-supplied arms might reach al Qaeda.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a hardline Islamist group, killed Kamal Hamami of the FSA Supreme Military Council on Thursday. Also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, he is one of its top 30 figures.

Rebel commanders pledged to retaliate.

"We are going to wipe the floor with them. We will not let them get away with it because they want to target us," a senior rebel commander said on condition of anonymity.

He said the al Qaeda-linked militants had warned FSA rebels that there was "no place" for them where Hamami was killed in Latakia province, a northern rural region of Syria bordering Turkey where Islamist groups are powerful.

Other opposition sources said the killing followed a dispute between Hamami's forces and the Islamic State over control of a strategic checkpoint in Latakia and would lead to fighting.

The FSA has been trying to build a logistics network and reinforce its presence across Syria as the US administration considers sending weapons to the group after concluding that Assad's forces had used chemical weapons against rebel fighters.

Al Qaeda kills Free Syrian Army commander - FSA spokesman

Militants linked to al Qaeda in Syria killed a senior figure in the Western- and Arab-backed Free Syrian Army on Thursday, an FSA source said, signaling a widening rift between Islamists and more moderate elements in the armed Syrian opposition.

Kamal Hamami, a member of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, known by his nom de guerre Abu Bassel al-Ladkani, was meeting with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the port city of Latakia when they killed him, said Qassem Saadeddine, a Free Syrian Army spokesman.

"The Islamic State phoned me saying that they (Al-Qaeda) killed Abu Bassel and that they will kill all of the Supreme Military Council," Saadeddine said from Syria.

"He met them to discuss battle plans," Saadeddine added.

The Free Syrian Army has been trying to build a network of logistics and reinforce its presence across Syria as the U.S. administration pledged to send weapons to the group after it concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had used chemical weapons against rebel fighters.

U.S. congressional committees are holding up the plan because of fears that such deliveries will not be decisive and the arms might end up in the hands of Islamist militants, security sources have said.

While Free Syrian Army units sometimes fight alongside Islamist militant groups such as the Islamist State, rivalries have increased and al Qaeda-linked groups have been blamed for several assassinations of commanders of moderate rebel units. 

Syrian rebels lose support as abuses mount

In the early days of the Syrian uprising, when opponents of the regime were desperate for assistance from any quarter, jihadist fighters were welcomed but a spate of abuses is fuelling a backlash. But things have changed.

"Out, out, out, the (Islamic) State (of Iraq and Syria) must get out," protesters shouted at a rally in the northern town of Manbij this week, referring to an Al-Qaeda front group.

The video of the demonstration is one of many showing how civilians and mainstream rebel fighters alike are turning against the more hardline Islamist factions.

The rebel forces seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad are disparate but many espouse political Islam of one form or another.

There are two main Al-Qaeda linked factions, both with Iraqi origins, according to Washington, the Al-Nusra Front, which has operational independence, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a front for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In Raqa, the only provincial capital in rebel hands, the Al-Nusra Front is accused of detaining dozens of men.

"My father has been held for a month by the Front. They think they're Islamic. I want my father to be free," weeps a little girl in one Raqa protest, footage of which was posted online.

"We reject this oppressive brand of Islam. We are Muslims. You're just fakes," a woman protester cried in another video from Raqa, demanding the release of the men held by Nusra.

Activists in the city also point to the disappearance of Abdallah al-Khalil, a veteran dissident and human rights activist.

"Khalil was about to open up council elections to the whole of Raqa. Al-Nusra was against the idea. He disappeared the next day," an activist from Raqa said. "Although their methods differ from the regime's, they are just as brutal. As they get more powerful militarily, they do whatever it takes to stem the growth of freedom in liberated (rebel-held) areas. They want power, not democracy."

In Idlib province in the northwest, whose borders with Turkey have allowed foreign jihadists to join the fighting in numbers, dozens of mainstream rebels were killed in a battle with ISIS last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The fighting broke out after rebels protested against the detention by the jihadists of a 12-year-old boy accused of uttering a blasphemous phrase.

"The chief of the (Free Syrian Army-affiliated) Hamzah Assadullah Brigade and his brother were both killed" in the fighting, the Britain-based watchdog said.

"We haven't seen many such battles, but it is clear the anger against the Islamic State and other jihadists is on the rise across Syria," its director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Nizar, an activist from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, said: "Time is running out for all these (jihadist) groups. They use violence and religion to try control us and, although people are afraid to openly express their dissent, no one wants them."

UN to visit Damascus for alleged chemical weapons use probe

The UN has accepted an invitation from Damascus to visit Syria to complete negotiations on the modalities of the probe into alleged use of chemical weapons in the conflict between the government and the opposition.

This was stated by UN Secretary General’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, AFP, TASS

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