US concerned by assassination of Syrian opposition leader

US warns killing of Jaysh al Islam leader Zahran Alloush may complicate peace process in Syria

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Zahran Alloush, head of the Army of Islam Syrian rebel group, speaks during the wedding of a fighter in the group in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern edge of Damascus, Syria, July 21, 2015

The US has expressed concerns over the killing of Syrian opposition leader Zahran Alloush, the late commander of the Jaysh al Islam group who was killed on Friday by a Russian air strike.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said “the strike on Alloush and others in Jaysh al Islam and other opposition groups do in fact complicate efforts to bring about meaningful political negotiations and a nationwide ceasefire."

Although Toner admitted that the US has concerns about Jaysh al Islam’s "behaviour on the battlefield,” he pointed out that the group was participating in the fight against DAESH terrorists and played a role in the political process to end almost five years of war in Syria.

Jaysh al Islam was one of dozens of factions to send representatives to participate in a 100-delegate meeting of opposition groups in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh earlier this month, choosing a former Syrian prime minister to take part in the dialogue on their behalf.

Toner said he was not sure if Washington and Moscow had discussed Friday’s incident, but told reporters that Alloush’s assassination “doesn't send the most constructive message.”

Jaysh al Islam appointed 40-year-old Essam al Buwaydhani as the new leader of the group after Alloush’s death, the group announced.

A number of Jaysh al Islam officials, including its spokesman, were killed in Friday’s air strike on the group's headquarters in al Marj, in the eastern Ghouta region of Damascus.

Bashar al Assad’s regime and Russian warplanes have been conducting heavy bombardments on the area, which in August 2013 was also targeted by chemical weapons allegedly fired by the regime.

Jaysh al Islam, which was established in September 2013 after the chemical attacks, is one of the most powerful and effective Syrian oppositions with thousands of well trained fighters.

Before setting up Jaysh al Islam, Alloush had founded Liwa al Islam, or the Brigade of Islam, with his father Abdallah, a Syrian cleric based in Saudi Arabia.

Since Sept. 30, Russia has been launching air strikes in support of the Assad regime, often targeting assemblies of Assad opponents.

Russian air strikes have also killed hundreds of civilians, with a report published by Amnesty International last week condemning Russia for using “unguided bombs in densely populated areas."

TRTWorld and agencies