Syria opposition to announce military council

December 09, 2012 - 5:25:05 am

An injured rebel fighter clutches his assault rifle as he sits on a stretcher on the back of a pickup truck with a fellow comrade in the Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo yesterady.

MANAMA: Syria’s new opposition coalition will announce the creation of a military council before a Friends of Syria meeting next week, to unify the ranks of insurgents, a top official said yesterday.

National Coalition Secretary General Mustafa Sabbagh said the group “will announce the creation of a supreme military council before the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh” due to take place on December 12.

In mid-November, opposition factions met in Qatar and agreed to set up the National Coalition and bring together rebel forces under a supreme military council, as well as establishing a judicial commission for rebel areas.

Under the deal the opposition agreed that the military council would take overall command of the various rebel groups on the ground to address US and other Western concerns over the growing influence of jihadist fighters.

The proliferation of jihadist militants has stoked fears among powers wary of providing weapons to rebels battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, lest the arms fall into extremist hands.

“The council will be exclusively responsible for receiving military aid which we obtain” from outside Syria, Sabbagh said.

He also stressed that the military command will not include radical groups such as Al Nusra Front which, along with other Islamist rebels, rejected the formation of the opposition National Coalition.

Another official confirmed that Al Nusra Front would not participate, saying that they “were not interested” and the council, for its part, did not want to be associated with a group “accused of terrorism.”

The Al Nusra Front, which has become a formidable fighting force, has claimed responsibility for the majority of suicide bombing attacks in Syria’s nearly 21-month-old insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

“Setting up the supreme military council is an important initiative to unify military action,” said Sabbagh.

The council will comprise “commanders of the various military councils on the group and forces battling the regime, namely the (main rebel) Free Syrian Army,” (FSA) he said on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Bahrain.

A senior leader of the new council said that its structure “brings together representatives of all the forces on the ground, both military and civilian leaders, to head a unified decision-making body.”

The composition of the council “is the result of many lengthy meetings held in Antalya (Turkey) over the last few days,” he added.

He said hundreds of defected officers and rebel leaders attended and were joined by representatives from 12 countries, including the United States, France, Turkey and Qatar.

The representatives chose General Selim Idriss, a military engineer who defected in July, as head of the new command. One high-ranking opposition leader described the Homs native as “a charismatic moderate.”