BEIRUT, Nov 15, (Agencies): The leader of a militant Syrian faction that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group was killed Sunday in a suicide attack by rival jihadists, a monitoring group said. “Abu Ali al-Baridi, head of Al- Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade and nicknamed ‘The Uncle’, was killed in a suicide attack by Al-Nusra Front,” al- Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said Baridi and two of his group’s top leaders were killed in the town of Jamlah in the southern Syrian province of Daraa bordering Jordan.
Baridi’s faction pledged allegiance to IS in 2014 and operated in the south of the country, Abdel Rahman said. Al-Nusra’s official Twitter account confirmed it had attacked Baridi, calling it a “heroic infiltration operation”. The two jihadist factions had been clashing in Daraa “for months”, Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that Al-Nusra fighters fired celebratory gunshots when they learned “The Uncle” had been killed. At least 32 fighters from Al-Nusra, Al- Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade and Islamist groups died in intra-rebel clashes earlier this week. “With this assassination, Al-Nusra has asserted its control on the southwestern front of Daraa province, near the border with the (Israeli-occupied) Golan,” Abdel Rahman said. Daraa province is largely under opposition control and is dominated by the pro-West Southern Front alliance, while the provincial capital is divided between regime and rebel forces.
Al-Nusra and IS were originally both part of al-Qaeda’s network in Syria, but IS split into its own faction in early 2014 and the groups have been fighting each other ever since. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday that his country would continue to support Syrian rebels if President Bashar al-Assad could not be removed through a political process.
“We will support the Syrian people,” Adel al-Jubeir told journalists on the sidelines of international Syria peace talks in Vienna. “We will support the political process that will result in (Assad) leaving, or we will continue to support the Syrian opposition in order to remove him by force.” A top Iranian official said Sunday several countries involved in Syria peace talks had tried to exclude President Bashar al-Assad from future elections but Tehran insisted the demand be withdrawn.
The remarks came after officials said agreement was reached on a roadmap to a more inclusive government in Damascus in the next six months aimed at ending Syria’s conflict, with polls to follow one year later. The peace talks involving 20 countries and organisations meeting in Vienna however remained deeply divided on the future of Assad, whose main regional ally has been Iran.