Syrian opposition: Jihadists ‘serve Assad’s interests’
The Syrian National Coalition accuses the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant of being closely linked to Damascus
Syria’s opposition National Coalition described on Wednesday al-Qaeda-linked group in the country of having ties to the Syrian regime, and accused it of serving the government’s interests.
The strong criticism against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) comes after the group reportedly tortured and killed an opposition doctor in northern Syria.
“The Coalition believes that ISIL is closely linked to the terrorist regime and serves the interests of the clique of President Bashar al-Assad, directly or indirectly,” Agence France-Presse quoted the Syrian opposition group as saying in a statement.
“The murder of Syrians by this group leaves no doubt about the intentions behind their creation, their objectives and the agendas they serve, which is confirmed by the nature of their terrorist actions hostile to the Syrian revolution,” it added.
It called on rebels who had joined ISIL to abandon the group and for the “prosecution of the leaders of this terrorist organization along with the criminals of the regime.”
It has also accused the group of abandoning the fight against the regime and instead battling other opposition fighters and civilians.
The Coalition has long accused the Syrian regime of hijacking and “stealing” the uprising by supporting extremist groups.
The opposition group said a rebel doctor, Hussein al-Sleiman, known by the pseudonym Abu Rayyan, had been held by ISIL in Maskana in Aleppo province, though there were no details on when he was detained.
The statement said he had been shot dead after being subjected to “the worst forms of torture.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the doctor belonged to the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group and that “one of his ears was cut off before he was shot.”
“His body was handed over on Tuesday as part of a prisoner exchange,” the NGO said.
The Observatory said ISIL is fighting in the area around Damascus and the north, though it has also been accused of fighting rebels and committing abuses against civilians.
While the rag-tag armed opposition initially welcomed the arrival of jihadist fighters, who were mostly better-equipped and trained, ties soured with the increasing strength of the foreign groups.
In the same time, the Syrian regime has always branded all those fighting against it as “terrorists,” and labeled the rebels as supporters of these radical elements.
Death toll rises
Syria’s conflict began with peaceful anti-government demonstrations in March 2011, and spiraled into a war after a brutal regime crackdown.
The conflict has killed more than 73,000 people in Syria in 2013, the Observatory said.
The Observatory’s tally came as renewed regime air strikes in the northern city of Aleppo killed at least five people.
The group also raised to 17 the toll in an incident in the Tarik al-Bab neighborhood of the city on Tuesday, in which a regime tank shell hit a bus.
The group said it considered the international community “a partner in the shedding of the blood of the Syrian people” because it had failed to take “serious action” to stop the war.
The Britain-based group said it had documented the deaths of 73,455 people between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013, including 22,436 civilians.
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