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article imageKey Syrian rebel leader killed in suicide attack

By Ken Hanly     Sep 9, 2014 in World
Aleppo - Hassan Assoud who led the Ahrar al-Sham brigade was killed along with others at a meeting of members of the large umbrella organization the Islamic Front. The meeting was called to discuss strategy to fight the radical Islamic State.
The Islamic Front is a merger of seven different rebel groups formed on 22 November 2013. It is not part of the western-backed Free Syrian Army(FSA) but cooperates with it in fighting both Assad and ISIS now called the Islamic State. Ahmad Musa a member of the group's political bureau claimed that the Syrian people wanted a revolution "not politics and foreign agendas". Many believe the group is funded by Saudi Arabia.
Ahrar al-Sham, which Assoud led, is one of the major groups of the Front with 10 to 20 thousand fighters as of July last year. In February of this year another top commander Abu al-Suri was assassinated in a suicide bombing.
Other important figures were killed in the attack including two military field commanders and the head of the Iman brigade. The death toll in total was said to be between 20 to 45.
In a December interview with Al Jazeera, Assoud dismissed any idea of participating in the Geneva talks to broker peace that included the western-supported Syrian National Coalition. He said at the time: "We see Geneva as a tool of manipulation - to derail the Syrian revolution away from its goals and objectives ... Whatever outcome the conference may yield, will be binding on the Syrian National Coalition only.For us, we will continue to fight for our revolution until we restore our rights."
The casualty figures from the attack vary as is often the case: The Edlib News Network said that over 40 people were killed, including four other leaders of Ahrar al-Sham. The Observatory said "tens" people were killed but did not provide a specific number. Differing casualty figures are routine immediately after attacks in Syria. The Observatory is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in the UK.
Ahrar al-Sham has a very conservative interpretation of Islam along the lines of that prevalent in Saudi Arabia. However there are reports that funding has been drying up of late as some donors have become wary of promoting more radical jihadists for fear that they might return home to carry out jihad there against the government. Ahrar al-Sham blames the Islamic State that has adopted an even more extreme jihadist ideology for the suicide attack. The attack is a serious blow to the rebel opposition and is likely to weaken them further.
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