First Published: 2012-11-09


Syria rebels to drastically restructure


Free Syrian Army is relocating its leadership to rebel-held territory in bid to win vital international support.


Middle East Online


NORTHERN SYRIA - Syria's largest armed opposition group is undergoing a drastic reorganisation and relocating its leadership to rebel-held territory in a bid to win vital international support, a general said.

Mustafa Sheikh heads the military council that presides over the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but which has been criticised for failing to bring order to an organisation some of whose members have been implicated in suspected war crimes.

But Sheikh said that in the past 10 days, the FSA had started to restructure itself into five divisions -- north, south, east and west, and the coast -- and would elect new leaders.

"We are getting closer and closer to becoming organised, so that we can get to a stage that is accepted by the international community," he said.

He said the FSA's priorities were organisation and securing heavier weapons than the Kalashnikovs and improvised rockets many units currently make do with.

"This body will operate in an organised and disciplined manner. When this happens, the international community will know where these weapons are going."

Washington has said it is working "very hard" to help the opposition unite in its struggle to bring down President Bashar al-Assad.

It has said that the Syrian National Council, an umbrella grouping of largely exiled dissidents, is no longer a valid leader of the opposition and called for representation from those on the front line.

Sheikh said the FSA leadership, based largely in neighbouring Turkey, is countering criticism from its rank and file, by relocating around 200 officers -- including himself -- back to "liberated" parts of Syria.

"Leaders and officers should not be away from the front, away from their soldiers. It's better to stay, for a better organisation, for better morale and for better control on the field, it's preferable," he said.


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