'Very, Very Important' Syrian Rebel Leader Killed

Abdulkader al-Saleh led Qatar-backed force

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 18, 2013 7:54 AM CST

(Newser) – The New York Times describes Abdulkader al-Saleh as a Syrian rebel leader "who brought together one of the most effective and organized factions" against Bashar al-Assad. No wonder, then, that his death is being described as a major setback for the rebels. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights today confirmed that Saleh died from injuries sustained when regime troops attacked a rebel leaders' gathering in Aleppo on Thursday. Saleh led the Tawhid Brigade, a top fighting force backed by Qatar, and one of its commanders says Saleh actually died on Thursday. A lid was reportedly kept on the news until yesterday's burial occurred; others say the death was kept quiet to keep up morale as the government gains ground.

"He was very, very important ... increasingly as an individual that many in Syria felt represented the revolution," an analyst tells AFP, saying Saleh's death could "spur on the rebels to launch a counter-attack as the regime advances." A spokesman for the Tawhid Brigade says the group's political leader, Abdul Aziz Salama, has taken full charge of the group, which numbers between 8,000 and 10,000, the BBC reports. But activists tell the Times that former Syrian officer Mohammed Hamadeen will take over.

In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 citizen journalism image, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria.
In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 citizen journalism image, a Syrian rebel fires a weapon towards Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad in Aleppo, Syria.   (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)
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