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Syria rebel chief detained
in Turkey: opposition media

Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement general commander Mohammad Said Masri was reportedly arrested at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport.

Masri. (Image via Enab Baladi)

BEIRUT – The commander of a powerful rebel faction based in Aleppo has been detained in Turkey, according to pro-opposition media outlets. 

 

Enab Baladi reported Wednesday that Turkish authorities arrested Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement general commander Mohammad Said Masri at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport as he was trying to fly out of the country.

 

A well-informed source told the outlet that Masri has been held in an Istanbul prison since March 11, where he faces the prospect of deportation from the country.

 

The pro-opposition outlet also cited the source as saying that the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement has come under “significant international pressure” for it to dissolve itself.

 

Meanwhile, Al-Etihad Press ran a similar report, claiming that the rebel commander was arrested on March 10 at Ataturk International Airport, where he remains in detention at one of the facility’s detention centers.

 

The pro-rebel website also reported that Masri’s arrest came amid foreign pressure on his group to disband, adding that the Nour al-Din al-Zenki commander—who was first appointed to his position on September 17, 2015—had fallen out of favor with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

 

“The first signs of this dispute manifested itself two months ago, when the Movement withdrew from several fronts in Aleppo after support was cut to it,” the outlet said.

 

In late January, Nour al-Din al-Zenki spokesperson Captain Abdul-Salam Ahmad Abdul-Razzaq announced his group was relinquishing a number of its positions in Syria’s second city.

 

He lamented that Nour al-Din al-Zenki was being subject to “foreign pressures because of its independent decisions,” adding that his group “works according to the principles of the revolution and does not allow interference in its internal affairs.”

 

The spokesperson explained that the “deployment of the Movement’s fighters requires large material resources and they are not available at the moment because of the absence of material and military support.”

 

“Not one bullet has reached the movement for over eight months.”

 

Abdul-Razzaq has yet to make any official statement on the alleged arrest of Masri, while Turkish media outlets have also stayed tight-lipped on the issue.

 

Nour al-Din al-Zenki is among the largest rebel groups operating around Aleppo, with the Institute for the Study of War classifying it as one of only twelve groups in Syria that is a “powerbroker,” or faction powerful enough to determine “the success of military operations against either the Syrian regime or ISIS.”

The rebel group had reportedly been financed and armed by the Turkey-based Military Operation Center that is supervised by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

 

However, Nour al-Din al-Zenki’s ties with the MOC seem to have fallen apart, with another spokesperson from the group telling Voice of America News in late October 2015 that it had not recently received TOW missiles.

 

Masri, who was born and educated in Aleppo in 1981, served as a police officer in the Assad regime until his defection in mid-2012. 

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language source material.

Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement chief Mohammad Said Masri. (Image via Enab Baladi)

Enab Baladi reported Wednesday that Turkish authorities arrested Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement general commander Mohammad Said Masri at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.