Ahrar al-Sham Appoints New Commander After Defeat in Idleb

Turkey-backed group names Sheikh Hassan Sofan as leader after alliance was left weakened by infighting and defections, opposition website reports

Once one of Syria's most powerful Islamist groups, the Ahrar al-Sham movement appointed a new general commander on Sunday after facing surprise defeats by an Al-Qaeda-linked alliance in northern Syria.

Hassan Sofan, an Islamist who spent 12 years in the notorious Sednaya prison, is due to lead the movement after it suffered defections and was weakened following its expulsion from areas of Idleb over the last two weeks by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist groups led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front).

Ahrar al-Sham, the rebel group that voiced support for the Syrian revolution and adopted its independence flag, has faced criticism by HTS, which seemed to be preparing itself for a major battle with Turkey and the U.S.-led coalition after the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa.

Rebel commanders told Zaman al-Wasl that Washington has no intention to fight HTS, giving the upper hand to the faction in Idleb province by halting the CIA arms program.

Meanwhile, activists have been demanding rapid reforms in the structure and the mentality of the Islamist factions in line with international developments and the new political map of Syria.

This article was 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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