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Middle east

Syrian opposition replaces 'ineffective' army chief

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-17

The main Western-backed armed group fighting in Syria, the Syrian Free Army (FSA), has sacked its leader due to the “ineffectiveness” of his command, the organisation said Monday.

General Salim Idriss (pictured), seen as a secular-leaning moderate, will be replaced as head of the FSA by Colonel Abdelilah al-Bashir, currently head of the group’s operations in the province of Quneitra on the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The decision was prompted by “the ineffectiveness of the command in the past few months... and to provide leadership for military operations against the criminal regime and its allies from terrorist organisations”, said a statement from the FSA’s Supreme Military Council.

The Syrian National Coalition, the coalition of Syrian opposition groups in exile, said in a statement that the decision to replace Idriss with Bashir, a more experienced field commander, came as a “relief”.

A source inside the Syrian opposition told AFP that Idriss - who was appointed to the role in December 2012 - had faced criticism for failings on the battlefield.

These included "errors and carelessness in combat" and "poor distribution of weapons" among the rebels on the ground, the source said.

He is also accused of distancing himself from "the concerns of the insurgents".

Major setbacks

Dissident rebels have long been wary of accepting leadership by Idriss, who has spent most of his time outside Syria since helping create the Supreme Military Council in December 2012.

During his tenure, the FSA suffered major setbacks.

Loyalist forces backed by Shiite fighters from Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah regained strategic territory in the province of Homs in the centre of the country and expanded a buffer zone around Damascus, where most elite troops, mostly comprised of President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect, are based.

Al Qaeda-linked groups also emerged as a potent force on the ground, and several Islamist brigades broke off from the FSA.

The switch comes after a series of so-far failed talks in Switzerland between officials loyal to President Assad and exiled opposition activists to try to resolve the three-year war.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-17

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