Syrian rebel leader wounded and soccer player killed in attacks

Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 00:00

A missile struck the command centre of the main Syrian rebel force near Damascus yesterday, wounding its leader, activists said, and a soccer player was killed when a bomb hit a stadium in the capital.

The missile attack on Liwa al-Islam Brigade – which is spearheading a three-week-old offensive that has given the rebels a foothold inside Damascus – deals a blow to efforts to undermine President Bashar al-Assad in his seat of power.

A rebel spokesman said Sheikh Zahran Alloush, founder of the brigade, was wounded but declined to give details.

“We cannot disclose Sheikh Zahran’s condition,” said the spokesman, Islam Alloush.

Devastating attack

Activists said the early morning strike took place near the northern Damascus suburb of Douma. The rocket devastated the area and killed other fighters, they said.

A rebel commander fighting with Liwa al-Islam in Damascus said: “It would be a great loss if Sheikh Alloush is killed. Liwa al-Islam is the most powerful [force] on the ground and Sheikh Alloush is the brains behind it.”

Activists and Syrian state media later reported a mortar bomb had struck the Tishreen stadium in central Damascus, killing a player from the Homs-based soccer team Al-Wathba.

Syrian television broadcast footage of what appeared to be the team’s sleeping quarters, with bloodstained walls and shattered glass on the beds.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria, said at least 20 people were killed in an air strike on the Damascus suburb of Hamouriya.

Meanwhile, rebels and a Kurdish militia that have fought each other for months in a town near the Turkish border have signed a ceasefire, averting the prospect of an Arab-Kurd conflict.

Syria’s Kurds had exploited the civil war by asserting control in parts of the northeast, which have been spared the worst of the violence. But the relative calm was shattered last November when mainly Sunni Muslim Arab rebels overran the ethnically mixed Syrian town of Ras al-Ain and Assad’s airforce bombed it.

Until a deal was struck earlier this week, Kurdish fighters had been battling to drive out insurgents from the Free Syrian Army, opening another front in Syria’s civil war.

– (Reuters)