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Wounded Syrian rebel leader refutes reports of his death

October 23, 2012 |  3:35 pm


BEIRUT -- The leader of the Tawheed division, one of the largest rebel factions fighting in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, has survived an assassination attempt while visiting the front lines, according to an oppositon video posted on YouTube.

The video appears to show Abdel Qader Saleh, the Tawheed chief, recuperating in bed with a bandaged left arm and torso.

The video posting was apparently meant in part to refute reports on pro-government social media sites that a military sniper had killed Saleh, one of the best-known rebel figures in Aleppo, with a loyal following among various brigades in the disparate opposition forces. The government labels the opposition fighters "terrorists" and "mercenaries," but the rebels call themselves revolutionaries.

"I'm in good health and God willing, I will be among them [rebel fighters] in few days," Saleh says in the video. Directly addressing Syrian President Bashar Assad, the wounded commander sends a message:  "We are coming to your presidential palace."

It was unclear whether the Tawheed commander was hit by government sniper fire or was wounded in other circumstances.

"Luckily the wounds are not serious and he will recover quickly and return to the front lines with us," said Col. Abdul Jabbar Akidi, a former Army officer who defected and is now a commander with the rebel Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group. The colonel, wearing a jacket and tie, is seated on the wounded rebel's bed as he is interviewed for the video.

Also in Aleppo, activists said that government shelling killed at least 20 people at a bakery in a rebel-held eastern district. Military shells have often hit bakeries and bread lines in Aleppo, frequently causing large-scale casualties, according to human rights and opposition groups. Video from Tuesday's purported strike shows mangled bodies among scattered bread loaves.

For more than three months, rebels and government forces have been fighting a battle for control of Aleppo, long considered Syria’s commercial hub.

Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants have fled the battered city, once home to more than 2 million people. Many neighborhoods have suffered extensive damage from firefights, shelling and government airstrikes. The two sides are battling across a more than 4-mile front line that divides the city into rebel-controlled and government-held zones. Both sides have posted snipers at strategic points in the city.


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Video: A YouTube posting appears to show Abdel Qader Saleh, the Tawheed chief, recuperating with Col. Abdul Jabbar Akidi, a former Army officer who defected, by his side.