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MIDEAST > Syrian rebel leader in Turkey after killing bid

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A rebel military leader who was among the first to call openly for armed insurrection against President al-Assad was wounded by a bomb planted in his car and receiving treatment in Turkey

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An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on September 22, 2012 shows Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief Riad al-Asaad (C) reading a statement from an undisclosed location in Syria. AFP Photo

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on September 22, 2012 shows Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief Riad al-Asaad (C) reading a statement from an undisclosed location in Syria. AFP Photo

Col. Riad al-Asaad, founder of the insurgent Free Syrian Army (FSA), has had his leg severed by an explosion in rebel-controlled Syria in an apparent assassination attempt, opposition sources said March.25.

His wounds were not life-threatening and he is now in a hospital in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, a Turkish official said. Al-Asaad, who set up the FSA in 2011 to fight for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, was one of the first senior officers to defect from the Syrian military.

Syrian opposition sources said al-Asaad had been hit by a car bomb in the city of al-Mayadin, south of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. Al-Mayadin is controlled by several rebel groups, not all of them under the FSA umbrella group.

“The attempt to assassinate Col. Riad al-Asaad in Deir ez-Zor is part of an attempt to assassinate the free leaders of Syria,” said Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned in March 24 as the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

Al-Asaad’s deputy, Malik al-Kurdi, told the Al Jazeera news channel that he believed the Syrian government was responsible for what he said was an assassination attempt. A bomb was placed under the car, directly below al-Asaad’s seat, Kurdi said, adding that al-Asaad also sustained wounds to his face.

Al-Asaad was excluded from a Western-backed command of the FSA formed last year. Since his defection, he has mostly lived with his family in a camp in Turkey along the Syrian border. Various Syrian rebel factions fight under the umbrella of the FSA, which has struggled to find regular weapons supplies and build a disciplined command and control structure.

Al-Khatib to take seat

Meanwhile, Moaz al-Khatib said today he would address the Arab summit in Doha “in the name of the Syrian people,” in a statement on Facebook.

The opposition’s envoy in Qatar, Nizar al-Haraki, told Agence France-Presse that al-Khatib will head the opposition delegation filling the seat of Syria, which has been suspended from the Arab League, at today’s summit.

“After performing ... prayers and consulting many trustworthy figures, among them Nizar al-Haraki, I have decided to make a speech in the name of the Syrian people at the Doha summit,” al-Khatib said in a statement on his Facebook page. “This is not linked to the resignation, which will be later discussed,” he added.

Haraki said that al-Khatib “will head the eight-member Syrian delegation at the summit and will occupy Syria’s seat.” The delegation will also include Syria’s interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto. Al-Khatib resigned his post five days after the election in Istanbul of Hitto, who pledged to form an interim government for the large swathes of territory inside Syria that have fallen into insurgent hands.

March/25/2013

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