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Tensions Within Assad’s Militias Turn Deadly After Attempted Walkout

The NDF paramilitary group is witnessing internal strife after thousands of its members urged to be reassigned due to salary issues, Alsouria Net writes
Tensions Within Assad’s Militias Turn Deadly After Attempted Walkout

A commander of the National Defense Forces in Homs revealed a recent major dispute between top leaders in the regime-allied militia, accusing group officials of planning his assassination.

In a statement to the pro-regime Al-Bayda FM radio, the NDF commander in Homs, Khaldoun Abou Ali, blamed officials inside the organization of being behind an attempt to kill him, which instead resulted in the death of one of his companions.

Khaldoun accused Saqr Rustam, an official in NDF's general secretariat, and his supporters in the Assad regime of forcing him and a number of NDF commanders to resign after a dispute which began three months ago and developed into a settling of scores between militia officials.

Previously, the NDF's general secretariat halted the salaries of thousands of fighters, as well as the compensation for the militia’s dead and wounded. NDF commanders protested the move and demanded a meeting with Rustam.

Khaldoun and other loyalist sources said that "after militia leaders met to discuss the halting of members' salaries, Rustam threatened to liquidate them and kidnap their families, as well as insulting senior figures in the Assad regime."

Khaldoun said that Rustam tried to assassinate him in broad daylight in Homs, "in full view of the people in the city," adding that "one of his companions was killed by fighters under the authority of Saqr Rustam," saying they were terrorists driving a car bomb.

The "Syria corruption in the age of reform" Facebook page recounted the details of the dispute, saying that after the NDF salaries were halted in Homs, its leaders called for 3,500 militia fighters to work under the command of the government forces instead.

According to the page, Rustam intervened and rejected the decision after it was issued, halting the transfer of authority to the regime forces. He then began a "campaign of retribution against sector leaders and the commander of the Homs center was dismissed, with matters escalating to tension and chaos."

The site concluded its post saying militia commanders were fired under charges of rebellion and treason.

The NDF militia has carried out a number of violations against Syrians, including accusations of massacres against civilians in the Homs countryside and other areas in Syria. Observers claim that the forces do not answer to the law, and their members are given total authority as a way of luring civilians to volunteer for them.

It is known that these militias include a large number of unemployed young men who volunteer in exchange for a monthly salary and impunity for looting homes.

Iran primarily backs these militias by giving wide support to their most prominent leaders, who are largely loyal to Tehran rather than President Bashar al-Assad. Alsouria Net has previously reported on Russia's attempts to dissolve these militias and use groups working for its interests.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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