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Mystery assassinations
target Daraa rebels

A Nusra commander was assassinated days after two FSA commanders survived bids on their lives.

Assassination attempts have targeted rebel commanders in Daraa. (AFP/Abd Doumany)

BEIRUT – A series of shootings have targeted top commanders of both Islamist and Free Syrian Army-affiliated rebel groups seeking to seize the southern city of Daraa.

 

On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “an unidentified militant has assassinated a Nusra Front security commander, shooting him dead in a hospital in Daraa.”

 

Fallouji

Nusra commander Ahmad Mohammad al-Fallouji. (Twitter)

 

The pro-rebel Zaman al-Wasl outlet went into further detail on the incident, identifying the Nusra official as Ahmad Mohammad al-Fallouji and specifying that he had been killed in the center of the city, which is divided between rebels and regime forces.

 

“It appears that Fallouji, who goes by the nom de guerre ‘Abu al-Izz,’ was receiving treatment in a field hospital when ‘unidentified assailants’ burst in on him and emptied between 20 and 30 bullets into his body,” the report said.

 

Neither the SOHR nor anti-regime news sites reported whether the assassins had been acting on behalf of the regime or another rival of the Al-Qaeda-affiliate.

 

Attempt on Sham Lions commander

 

Kinani

Sham Lions Brigade commander Mufleh al-Kinani. (Facebook)

 

The killing of the Nusra official came shortly after a failed assassination bid against Mufleh al-Kinani, the commander of the Sham Lions Brigade, a rebel battalion affiliated with the FSA-linked Southern Front coalition, which has been fighting the regime in southern Syria.

 

In a defiant message directed at his would be killers, the rebel commander said that although he was ready to accept “martyrdom” he would never surrender.

“I promise you, o killer, o mercenary, o agent, that I will never surrender, as long as there is life in me and I [can] speak,” Kinani’s Facebook page announced in the early hours of Tuesday.

 

“If you manage to kill me some day that is my will; I ask to be a martyr in the service of God.”

 

The Syrian regime had claimed the bid on Kinani, saying it killed him in a special operation conducted by the Syrian army against rebel fighters in Daraa near the city’s Doctors Syndicate.

 

A military source told the state SANA news agency that there were “casualties among the militant ranks including the terrorist Mufleh al-Kinani, the leader of a terrorist group in the area.”

 

Attempt on First Army commander

 

Saber Safar

First Army commander Colonel Saber Safar. (Al-Modon)

 

Another top FSA rebel also survived an assassination attempt in Daraa over the weekend as fighting continued to rage in the provincial capital.

 

“Staff Colonel Saber Safar, a resident of the town of Ibtaa and First Army commander, is well after a failed assassination attempt and attack on his HQ in the city of Daraa today,” Facebook page the United Media Office in Ibtaa reported Sunday.

The page blamed “the regime’s lackeys” for the attempted assassination of the commander, without elaborating on exactly who this implied.

Safar—who was appointed the head of the First Army in late 2014—was also quoted in the post as saying the attempt would “not dissuade us from pursuing the regime until the liberation of Daraa.”

 

Nusra-Southern Front campaign on Daraa

 

The Southern Front on June 25 launched a widely-anticipated campaign to seize Daraa with the cooperation of Islamist rebels, including the Al-Nusra Front.

 

However, the offensive quickly became bogged down in fierce back-and-forth fighting that has seen the rebels make little substantial headway against well entrenched regime forces.

 

In its assault on Daraa, the Southern Front has coordinated closely with Islamist groups active in southern Syria, despite the FSA-affiliated rebels’ disavowal of the Al-Nusra Front’s recent move to create an “Army of Conquest” in southern Syria.

 

The Southern Front on April 13 officially cut off ties with Nusra and only last week it said that the Al-Qaeda-linked group was not participating alongside it in its Quneitra offensive.

 

Despite these media statements, Nusra had reportedly assisted FSA rebels defend against a failed regime offensive in the Daraa province town of Busr al-Harir in late April.

Assassination attempts have targeted rebel commanders in Daraa. (AFP/Abd Doumany)

It appears that Fallouji, who goes by the nom de guerre ‘Abu al-Izz,’ was receiving treatment in a field hospital when ‘unidentified assailants’ burst in on him and emptied between 20 and 30 bullets into his body.