Saturday, July 20, 2013

Did you say 'vetted rebels'?

"... UNTIL last month the leader of Ahrar al-Sham (the Free Men of Syria), a large Salafist rebel group, went by a nom de guerre. Then on June 8th Hassan Aboud revealed his real name in an interview with Al Jazeera, the Qatari satellite television channel. Days later he attended a Salafist shindig in Cairo. Slowly but surely his group, which may number 10,000-20,000 fighters and leads the Syrian Islamic Front, a coalition of like-minded rebel groups, has become the most powerful outfit battling against President Bashar Assad...Some see the hand of Qatar behind its burgeoning success. “Ahrar al-Sham and its front is clearly positioning itself as an Islamist alternative to the disorganised moderate rebel fighters,” says Charles Lister of Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre in London. Its political arm is expanding too. ...
Hitherto the most prominent of the extreme Islamist groups has been Jabhat al-Nusra, which may have 7,000 or so fighters. But recently it has been bogged down in a power struggle with al-Qaeda in Iraq, .... As Jabhat al-Nusra’s clout has weakened, Ahrar al-Sham’s has grown stronger.

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