Turf war feared after Syrian rebel leader killed

Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:22am EST
 
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - The killing of a senior Islamist rebel commander near Syria's border with Turkey could indicate a turf war between armed groups that will hamper their struggle to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sources told Reuters.

Thaer al-Waqqas, northern commander of al-Farouq Brigades, one of Syria's largest rebel groups, was shot dead at a rebel-held position in the town of Sermin, a few kilometres from Turkey, early on Wednesday morning, rebel sources said.

Al-Waqqas, they said, had been suspected of involvement in the killing four months ago of Firas al-Absi, a main jihadist leader in al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, which Washington dubbed a terrorist organization in December.

In addition to chronic supply problems and a shortage of financing and heavy weapons, the lack of unity among Syria's rebels has held back their efforts to dislodge Assad's forces.

"The assassins came in a white car, disembarked and riddled Waqqas with bullets as he was at a food supply depot," one of the rebels said.

He said suspicion immediately turned on Nusra.

"Absi's brother is a commander in (the city of) Homs. He vowed revenge for Firas, and it seems that he has carried out his promise," the rebel said.

"Farouq is in a period of mourning now. But it seems a matter of time before the clashes with Nusra erupt in Bab al-Hawa," he added, referring to the rebel-held border crossing with Turkey where Absi was killed.   Continued...