Syrian rebel leader wounded, opposition to attend Arab League summit | News | DW | 25.03.2013
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Syrian rebel leader wounded, opposition to attend Arab League summit

A senior rebel leader fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been seriously wounded in a car bombing. The former army colonel is reported to have lost a limb in the attack in the east of the country.

Details of the bombing remain sketchy, but reports from several sources say Colonel Riad al-Asaad survived the attack and his injuries were not life-threatening.

"Colonel al-Asaad is in stable condition and all arrangements are being set for his safety," a spokesman for the self-styled Free Syrian Army (FSA) told Germany's DPA news agency.

"Such attacks will never make us weaker, instead it will enhance our goal to oust the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad," Louay al-Mokdad said, adding that Asaad had lost a leg in the blast.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier reported the attack, but claimed that Asaad, a former colonel in the Syrian air force, had been killed.

Although Asaad was one of the first senior officers to join the rebel cause, leaving Assad's army to help form the FSA in late 2011, his influence has been limited, with hundreds of different rebel groups involved in the conflict. His group was also superceded by the creation of the Office of the Chiefs of Staff, which is associated with the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

Al-Khatib to attend summit despite resignation

Meanwhile, the National Coalition leader who announced on Sunday that he was stepping down from the post, has said that he will attend a two-day Arab League summit that is to open in Qatar on Tuesday.

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Syrian opposition struggles with divisions

Mouaz al-Khatib said in a statement posted on his Facebook that he would address the conference "in the name of the Syrian people," despite having announced that he was stepping down. That issue, the statement said, "will be discussed later."

Ghassan Hitto, whom the Coalition elected last week to head an interim government for rebel-held areas is also planning to attend the summit.

This follows a decision announced by Arab League foreign ministers to grant the opposition Syria's seat at the table in Qatar.

According to United Nations estimates, more than 70,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began two years ago with demonstrations demanding political reforms.

pfd/hc (AP, AFP, dpa)

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