The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has given Islamist groups a 24 hour deadline to hand over the jihadists responsible for the cold blooded murder of their commander Hamami during a meeting near the port city Latakia (map).
The opposition groups have fallen apart in the last months, ever since the war drags on in a military stand-off, the EU and USA promising to send heavy arms to the FSA and shun the terror designated Islamist groups fighting in northern and eastern Syria. There were squabbles before with deadly incidents, now it seems the FSA has declared war on the Islamist groups consisting of foreign fighters.
The fissures became visible, see my diary – Perhaps You Have Noticed … A turning Point In Syria [May 26, 2013].
(JPost) – BEIRUT – Syrian rebels said on Friday the assassination of one of their top commanders by al-Qaida-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters struggling against President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Rivalries have been growing between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria more than two years after pro-democracy protests became an uprising.
“We will not let them get away with it because they want to target us,” a senior FSA commander said on condition of anonymity after members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant killed Kamal Hamami on Thursday.
“We are going to wipe the floor with them,” he said.
Hamami, also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, is one of the top 30 figures on the FSA’s Supreme Military Command. His killing highlights how the West’s vision of a future, democratic Syria is unravelling.
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The FSA commander said the al-Qaida-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.
VACUUM OF POWER
The two sides have previously fought together from time to time, but the Western and Arab-backed FSA, desperate for greater firepower, has recently tried to distance itself to allay US fears any arms it might supply could reach al-Qaida.
Louay Mekdad, FSA Supreme Command Political Coordinator, said Abu Ayman al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s Emir of the coastal region, personally shot dead Hamami and his brother at the roadblock. He said a fighter who was travelling with them was set free to relay the message that the Islamic State considers the FSA heretics and that the Supreme Command is now an al-Qaida target.
BEIRUT, Lebanon (Daily Star) – A rebel allied with Abu Bassir said via Facebook he had witnessed what he described as a cold-blooded shooting at an ISIS checkpoint when the rebel chief was on his way to visit fellow fighters at the front.
“They told us we weren’t allowed to cross, that they had orders from their emir, Abu Ayman,” who heads ISIS in Latakia
An activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gave a different version of events, saying Abu Bassir was killed when ISIS fighters tried to destroy an FSA checkpoint in the Jabal al-Turkman region, in the north of Latakia province.
Highly organized and respected by members of his Ezz Bin Abdel-Salam Battalion (Salafist), Abu Bassir “was a moderate and believed in the idea of a democratic state,” one of his friends, who would be identified only as Aboud, told AFP via the Internet.
“During the liberation of the Christian village of Burj al-Kassab, a jihadist destroyed a cross. A fight broke out between Abu Bassir and the jihadists over this incident,” he added.
Residents of Latakia province “are very angry” over the assassination, said Aboud, adding that “the regime [of President Bashar Assad] has tried for two years to kill Abu Bassir. And now these people come and kill him.”
The two anti-Assad groups have previously fought together from time to time, but the Western and Arab-backed FSA, desperate for greater firepower, has recently tried to distance itself to allay U.S. fears that any arms it might supply could reach Al-Qaeda.
With funding from Gulf-based individuals, Islamist brigades have taken a leading role in rebel-held regions of Syria, filling the vacuum of power by setting up religious courts and governance bodies.
Jihadists Already Control The Land Syria’s US-Educated Prime Minister Hitto Wants To Rule
[PM Hitto resigns after Saudi putz to oust MB/Qatar influence in SNC (July 2013) – Oui]
(Business Insider) March 20, 2013 – Jihadists rebels now control large parts of the three provinces that make up northeastern Syria and are working to install the foundations for an Islamic state.
Earlier this month extremist rebels — mostly from large armed groups Ahrar al Sham and Jabhat al Nusra— captured the provincial capital of Raqqa, Syria’s sixth largest city and the first to fall into rebel hands.
In February Nusra rebels have surrounded the provincial capital of of Deir al-Zor, and the 10,000-strong force already controls wheat silos, a textile factory, and oil fields across the province.
As jihadist rebels — who have long been the oppositions best and most organised fighters — continue to acquire territory, a set of entirely new and devastating set of problems face the new government. Toppling Assad is only half the battle, and the FSA will have to prepare to fight against the powerful Islamic militias like Nusra and al Sham.
“After the fall of Bashar there will be so many battles between these groups,” an Iraqi who joined the regular Free Syrian Army told the New York Times in December. “All the groups will unite against al-Nusra.” Given that the powerful Islamic brigades are the opposition’s best chance to defeat Assad, it seems likely that they’ll be the strongest force in Syria when he’s gone.