Syria rebel video claims a new split in opposition

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BEIRUT -- Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a commander said in a video posted Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar Assad's regime.

The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, has long struggled to win respect and recognition from the fighters.

It is widely seen as cut off from events on the ground and ineffective in funneling aid and weapons to the rebels.

In the video, a rebel, later identified by a Free Syrian Army official as a captain in a local brigade, read a statement with about two dozen fighters standing behind him, some holding a banner with FSA emblems.

The man said political opposition leaders have failed to represent those trying to bring down Assad.

"We announce that we withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represents us, first among them the Coalition and its leadership which have relinquished the principles of the homeland and the revolution," he said.

He named 66 groups that he said support his statement. The man suggested rebel groups would reorganize, saying that "we are unifying the forces of the revolution militarily and politically," but did not explain further.

The claims made in the video could not be confirmed independently.

Also, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Wednesday its inspectors have visited 11 of more than 20 sites linked to the chemical weapons program in Syria.

The team destroyed "critical equipment" at six sites as well as unloaded chemical weapons munitions, said the OPCW.

A joint OPCW-U.N. mission is to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, precursor chemicals and production facilities by mid-2014.

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