Syrian rebels appoint successor after commander slain in airstrike

BEIRUT -- Militant groups in Syria on Saturday mourned the death of a powerful rebel commander who was killed in an airstrike near Damascus -- a high-profile assassination that may shift the balance of power in rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital.

See Full Article

Zahran Allouch, the head of the Army of Islam group, was killed Friday in an airstrike that targeted the group's headquarters during a meeting. He was instantly killed along with other commanders from the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham and the Faylaq al-Rahman groups.

His assassination a month before peace talks are scheduled to begin between the Syrian government and opposition rebel groups is a blow to insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar Assad and a boost to government forces who have been bolstered by the Russian military intervention in Syria in the past few months. Syrian government forces have been on the offensive in several parts of the country since Russia began its military campaign in late September to shore up Assad's forces.

The Army of Islam took part earlier this month in an opposition meeting held in Saudi Arabia to agree on an opposition delegation that would negotiate with government representatives in peace talks planned for late January in Geneva. The Syrian government describes the group as "terrorists" and has said it will not negotiate with such factions.

The Syrian army claimed responsibility for the airstrike that killed Allouch, although many among the opposition blamed Russia.

"The martyrdom of Sheikh Zahran Allouch should be a turning point in the history of the revolution and rebel groups should realize they are facing a war of extermination by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's regime," said Labib Nahhas, a senior member of the Ahrar al-Sham group.

"The next stage will witness the liquidation of those leaders who began the uprising," wrote Abu Hassan al-Muhajer, another senior member of the group on Twitter.

Other insurgent groups, including the al-Qaida branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, lamented his killing.

The Army of Islam group swiftly appointed Essam al-Buwaydhani, a field commander known as Abu Hammam, as the new leader of the group, replacing Allouch.

In a video posted on the Internet late Thursday, a spokesman for the Army of Islam said Allouch's killing "will only increase our fight" against Assad's government and the Islamic State group.

"We are moving forth on the path, and we do not change or alter," the unidentified speaker said, reading from a statement.

In a statement, the Nusra Front said Allouch died after years of "sacrifice" and wished his successor luck.

Allouch, who was in his mid-40s, was widely known to be supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He was one of the most powerful rebel commanders with thousands of fighters controlling large parts of the eastern Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta and Douma. In addition to fighting government forces, the Army of Islam faction fought pitched battles against its rival, the Islamic State group near Damascus.

A former prisoner who was released in a general amnesty after the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, Allouch joined the armed opposition and formed the Army of Islam -- which became one of the most organized rebel factions in Syria.

Critics accused him of sectarian politics and brutal tactics similar to that of the Islamic State group.

He is blamed by other opposition groups for the December 2013 disappearance of four prominent activists including human rights activist and lawyer Razan Zaytouni. He denies holding them although they were kidnapped from an area under Army of Islam control.

Earlier this year, after government airstrikes on the suburbs of Damascus killed dozens, Allouch placed some Alawites that his group was holding in cages in public areas and markets, using them as human shields to try to prevent further airstrikes. Men and women were put in large metal cages on pick-up trucks that drove around Damascus suburbs.

Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Israel marks Holocaust remembrance day with sombre ceremony

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM - Israel is marking its annual Holocaust remembrance day in memory of the 6 million Jews systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. It is one of the most melancholy days on Israel's calendar. Source
  • Author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann shot in Kenya

    World News CTV News
    NAIROBI, Kenya -- The Italian-born author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann was shot at her Kenyan ranch and airlifted for treatment after herders invaded in search of pasture to save their animals from drought, officials said Sunday. Source
  • 'Party girl' stereotype played role in cabbie sex-assault case: professor

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The stereotype of the "promiscuous party girl" may have factored into the acquittal of a Halifax cab driver accused of sexually assaulting a woman in his car, a review of the case suggests. Source
  • What's next for the Montreal Canadiens?

    Canada News CBC News
    The Montreal Canadiens face a long summer filled with plenty of questions after last night's disappointing first-round exit. "It's a bitter disappointment," Carey Price said after losing 3-1 in Game 6. "We couldn't catch a break all series. Source
  • Some sex assault complainants turning to human rights tribunal to seek change

    Canada News CTV News
    The challenges of criminally prosecuting sexual assault cases have some complainants turning to human rights tribunals in an effort to bring about systemic change and seek restitution. The latest case involves a complaint by a woman against the University of Toronto that was filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario earlier this month. Source
  • Medical student accused of murder 'fully participating' in defence: lawyer

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The murder trial of a former Halifax medical student resumes Monday, with his lawyer calling him a "model client" who has been unusually involved in his defence. William Sandeson, 24, received special permission to use a computer while on remand at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Halifax so he could review case material, said defence lawyer Eugene Tan. Source
  • 'Thoroughly disappointed': Leafs fan out $800 in apparent playoff ticket scam

    Canada News CTV News
    Playoff tickets across the country have been in high demand, but if you’re looking for a bargain, better beware of possible scammers looking to take advantage. Mike Michea doled hundreds of dollars to attend Game 6 of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Washington Capitals first-round playoff series, behind held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sunday. Source
  • U.K. reality TV star's ex-boyfriend arrested in nightclub acid attack

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — British police say they have arrested the ex-boyfriend of a reality TV performer sought in connection to an acid attack at an east London nightclub. Police said Sunday that Arthur Collins had been arrested late Saturday night on suspicion of attempted murder. Source
  • Sessions on Hawaii remark: 'Nobody has a sense of humour'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - Attorney General Jeff Sessions says "nobody has a sense of humour anymore." That's his assessment after drawing ire for seeming to dismiss the state of Hawaii as merely "an island in the Pacific. Source
  • Former Calgary man Farah Mohamed Shirdon 1 of 2 Canadians added to U.S. terrorist list

    Canada News CBC News
    The U.S. Department of State has added two Canadians to its most-wanted global terrorist list. Farah Mohamed Shirdon and Tarek Sakr were named as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists," according to a release from the State Department. Source