World Bulletin/News Desk
A prominent Syrian rebel leader has died from wounds suffered in an air raid on the city of Aleppo, in a blow to the armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, activists said on Monday.
Abdelqader Saleh, head of the al-Tawhid Brigades, which is backed by Qatar, died in a Turkish hospital where he had been taken. Saleh had been wounded on Thursday when Assad's forces raided a Tawhid meeting and killed another commander on the spot, opposition sources said.
"We declare the martyrdom of Abdelqader Saleh," a statement by Tawhid said.
Having lost several key rebel bases in the past few weeks, Saleh, who was in his 30s, had been working on regrouping fighters in Aleppo before he died. The city, situated 45 kms (28 miles) south of Turkey, was Syria's commercial hub and most populous city before the uprising against Assad erupted in 2011.
Taking advantage of infighting between rebel groups, Assad's forces, backed by Shi'ite militia from Iraq and the Lebanese party Hezbollah, have been have been making advances in the north and east of the contested city.
In an interview with the Opposition Orient Television from a battlefield in eastern Aleppo last week, Saleh said: "We will not let Iran and Hezbollah advance except on our dead bodies."
Saleh, a merchant from the town of Mareh in the countryside north of Aleppo, organised dozens of rebel brigades in the region under the Tawhid banner. A former army conscript, he was known by the nom de guerre Hajji Mareh.
Tawhid issued a statement last week, along with others that included al-Nusra Front, declaring an emergency and summoning all fighters to head to the fronts.
Opposition activists said the declaration was an indication of how grave rebels regarded the possibility of Assad, boosted by his Shi'ite militia allies and Iran, wresting back Aleppo.
Tawhid's ties have been deteriorating with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, as clashes broke out in the past few months in the north between the group and other rebel units, including Nusra and units of the Free Syrian Army.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday his group will keep fighting in Syria alongside Assad's forces as long as necessary.Last Mod: 18 Kasım 2013, 10:05