The ongoing struggle within the ranks of Syria’s rebels escalated this week as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) accused the newly formed Islamic Front of carrying out a raid on its bases and warehouses near the Turkish border.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior FSA Supreme Military Council official speaking anonymously accused the Islamic Front, a new coalition comprised of seven major Islamist rebel groups fighting in Syria, of carrying out a “complete coup” against the FSA’s Chiefs of Staff, headed by General Salim Idriss.
He added that the Islamic Front, which some analysts believe now represents the strongest unified rebel force on the ground in Syria, is operating with the support of “some regional countries.”
“The FSA warehouses are now empty after they were occupied and their contents were stolen, including Salim Idris’s own office,” the FSA officer said. He claimed that Commander Abu Al-Nur of Ahrar Al-Sham led the operation.
He said that the Islamic Front raided a total of ten warehouses belonging to the Western-backed umbrella group and seized a significant arsenal of weaponry, including 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 1,000 assorted arms—including M79 Osa rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, and 14.5mm heavy machine guns—in addition to more than 200 tons of ammunition. At least 100 FSA military vehicles were also taken in the attack.
Islamic Front military spokesman Captain Islam Alloush denied responsibility, accusing “unknown groups” of being responsible for raiding the FSA base and stealing their equipment.
The FSA officer said: “The claims made by the Islamic Front and Ahrar Al-Sham that they came to protect the warehouses at the request of the FSA Chiefs of Staff is a lie.”
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “after combat that lasted all night, fighters from the Islamic Front captured a [FSA] general staff position near the Bab El-Hawa border crossing [with Turkey] and seized their arms depots.”
The observatory added that five fighters had been killed in the battle, but did not specify whether they were members of the FSA or the Islamic Front.
FSA spokesman Luay Al-Miqdad told Reuters that the Islamic Front had replaced the FSA flag over the base with one of their own.
The senior FSA officer described what happened as a “conspiracy against the Syrian people being funded by known states.”
He said: “After the [Islamic Front] leaders failed to control the FSA chiefs of staff at meetings in Istanbul last month, they are now carrying out a coup against the FSA on the ground.”
He added that “120 million US dollars in humanitarian assistance was expected to reach the Syrian people, but this was frozen due to the Islamic Front attack.”