BEIRUT – Al-Qaida-linked gunmen killed a rebel commander in Syria aligned with the Western-backed militias fighting against Bashar Assad’s regime, the highest-profile casualty of growing tensions between moderate and jihadi fighters among rebel forces.
Observers worried Friday that the commander’s death will increase distrust and suspicion between forces already at odds over territory and leadership as the nearly three-year civil war continues in Syria.
Loay AlMikdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, said Friday that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – a group reportedly made up of al-Qaida’s branches in Iraq and Syria – were behind the killing of Kamal Hamami. Hamami, known as Abu Basir, served in the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, a group headed by a secular-minded moderate that has the support of Western powers.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said gunmen shot Hamami dead late Thursday after militants tried to remove a checkpoint he set up in the Jabal al-Turkoman mountain in the coastal province of Latakia. The observatory said two of his men were seriously wounded in the shooting.