Free Syrian Army issues ultimatum to al Qaeda over murder of commander

Several days ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, the rogue al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, murdered Kamal Hamami, a Free Syrian Army military commander who also was a member of the US-backed Supreme Military Council. From Al Jazeera:

Kamal Hamami, a member of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council, known as Abu Basir, was killed in the Turkmen mountains near the northern city of Latakia, spokesman Louay Meqdad told Al Jazeera on Friday.

Meqdad said the commander was killed after a heated debate with a local leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in which the leader called the FSA “infidels”.

Hamami’s brother, who was travelling in the car with him, was also killed, the spokesman said. The brothers and a third man had been on a surveillance mission before a planned attack on government forces, Meqdad said.

A third man was allowed to leave to report the killings.

Another FSA spokesman, Qassem Saadeddine, said the group phoned him to admit the killing.

“[They said] that they will kill all of the Supreme Military Council,” Saadeddine said from Syria.

The Free Syrian Army issued an ultimatum to the ISIL: turn over Abu Ayman al Baghdadi, the al Qaeda emir in the Latakia region who executed the FSA commander, or face “justice.” The FSA spokesman interviewed by Al Jazeera in the video above makes some bold threats, and then predictably makes a plea to the “international community” to arm the rebels.

“We demand that the international community supply us with arms to get rid of this disease,” he says at the end of the interview.

The ISIL was given 24 hours to hand over Abu Ayman al Baghdadi. That deadline has now passed.

It is unlikely that the FSA will turn its guns on the ISIL given the latter’s strengths, and the lack of a coherent command structure in the FSA, a hodgepodge of various brigades, many of which are quite friendly to the ISIL and al Qaeda’s official affiliate, the Al Nusrah Front. FSA units often fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front against the Syrian military, and some top FSA leaders are sympathetic to or downright supportive of al Qaeda. Also, in the unlikely event of an all-out clash with the FSA, the ISIL will be able to call on other nonaligned Syrian Islamist brigades, and would probably receive support from the Al Nusrah Front, if the FSA decided to make good on its threat.

Additionally, the killing of commanders and fighters by rival rebel groups is nothing new in Syria. Islamists have killed FSA commanders in the past, and vice versa. These incidents often occur due to local rivalries and competition for resources, not for ideological reasons. In this recent killing of an FSA commander, the issue wasn’t ideology, but access to a checkpoint in order to deploy forces.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • M.H says:

    The latakia region is very important to al-Qaeda because it is the point of entrance for foreigner fighters coming from Turkey. Why the control of Ladikia was giving to the Islamic State of Iraq and the levant instead of Al- Nusrah. Is this mean the ISIL is responsible for controlling and managing foreigner fighters entrance to Syria? If yes, is the conflict between ISIL and al- Nusrah is just a fake one covering a good strategic relation?

  • mike merlo says:

    Great news.

  • gb says:

    This has been bubbling to the surface since Al Nusrah had some dramatic successes, and very effectively publicized them. I also sense that there may be a lot of Syrian resentment regarding the foreign influences within the al qaeda ranks.

  • James says:

    My question concerns this Abu Ayman al Baghdadi.
    Might this be the notorious leader of AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) [operating under his common pseudonym and nom de guerre of ‘Baghdadi’]?

  • Bikebrains says:

    “In this recent killing of an FSA commander, the issue wasn’t ideology, but access to a checkpoint in order to deploy forces.” With that level of cooperation among his enemies, al-Assad will be in power for a long time.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    It is unclear if Abu Omar Baghdadi is actually Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the overall emir of AQI/ISIL, and the Dawn reporter or TTP commander mis-identified hi; or if Abu Omar Baghdadi is a a different person who is the ISIL ops chief for Syria. I have been trying to track this down.


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