Hundreds of independent rebel groups are fighting a civil war against Assad’s forces across the country and many activists no longer bother to stage unarmed protests. The UN says more than 70,000 people have been killed since the first protests in March, 2011.
Vedat Xhymshiti | between THE frontlines
During that transition, Asaad, who spent most of his time in a refugee camp in Turkey, never managed to build effective links with most rebel groups or provide the support that would have made them recognize him as their leader. While most fighters in Syria refer to themselves as part of the “Free Army,” those who say they follow Asaad are rare.
More recently, Asaad’s group has been superseded by the Office of the Chiefs of Staff, which is associated with the opposition Syrian National Coalition and led by Gen. Salim Idris. That body, too, has failed to project widespread authority inside Syria, where most groups still cobble together their own funding and arms.
The Mayadeen activist said via Skype that a bomb planted in the seat of the car Asaad was riding in blew up as he toured the town.
The activist said rebels now control the town and most of the surrounding areas, although President Assad still has supporters, whom the activist blamed for the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety.
Asaad was travelling with an aide and a local activist, Barakat al-Haweish, both of whom were slightly injured, the activist said. Asaad was taken to a local field hospital, where doctors amputated his right foot before transporting him to Turkey.
Also Monday, the opposition’s exile political leadership, the Syrian National Coalition, said a delegation was heading to Doha, where the Gulf state of Qatar will host a two-day Arab League summit starting Tuesday.
Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army Gen. Salim Idris addresses the media after he discussed the situation in Syria with the leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe . (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)
Foreign ministers of the League’s member states decided Monday to grant Syria’s seat in the body to the opposition. The Syria government’s membership was suspended earlier in the uprising.
Heading the delegation is Mouaz al-Khatib, the Coalition said in a statement on its Facebook page. He is going despite having resigned his position as Coalition leader on Sunday, citing restriction on his work inside the group and frustration with the level of international aid for the opposition.
Khatib, a respected Muslim preacher before being chosen last year to head the Coalition, said in a post on his own Facebook page that he would address the summit “in the name of the Syrian people.” He said the move had nothing to do with his resignation, “which will be discussed later.”
The Coalition refused his resignation and has asked him to keep his job.
Also in the delegation is Ghassan Hitto, whom the coalition elected last week to head a planned interim government to govern rebel-held areas.