Saturday 23 September 2017

Syria rebel chief 'killed by al-Qa'ida faction'

Ruth Sherlock Beirut

Syria's rebel movement has descended into its own conflict after a faction linked to al-Qa'ida was accused of assassinating a commander in the Free Syrian Army.

The largely secular FSA blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for the murder of Kamal Hamami (32), a senior FSA commander.

It said his killing amounted to a "declaration of war", as tensions between groups supposed to be working together against President Bashar Assad were dramatically exposed.

Mr Hamami was shot dead in the town of Salma on Thursday. The FSA said it would launch a revenge attack, raising the prospect of a feud that could play into the hands of Mr Assad, whose forces have been making strategic gains recently.

"The Free Syrian Army are preparing a big attack on the al-Qa'ida group in Latakia province in revenge for the commander's death," Mr Mahmoud, an opposition activist, said.

Local sources said Mr Hamami – also known as Abu Baseer – was killed by Abu Ayman, the leader of the al-Qa'ida group, in a dispute over a planned attack.

SCHISM

"When Abu Baseer went to see them, the jihadists called them 'infidels' and refused to let his men attack the checkpoint. Abu Ayman took out his gun and shot him," a friend of the commander said.

The growing schism between the moderates and the foreign jihadists coincides with attempts by Britain and the US to find "Western-friendly" groups.

Despite announcements that the US is ready to arm the rebels, several commanders on the ground have said that they have not yet received any weapons. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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