Syria rebel group fights in Damascus, talks in Geneva

The head of Faylaq al-Rahman's political bureau, Mutassem al-Shumeir, is a member of the opposition delegation in Geneva.

Published: 24th March 2017 08:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th March 2017 08:03 PM   |  A+A-

Turkey Syria. AP


GENEVA:  Syrian rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman is in the thick of a new offensive in Damascus but is also participating in peace talks with the government in Geneva this week.

The group's spokesman Wael Alwan says there is no contradiction in its stand.

"The two complement each other," says Alwan, who is also a spokesman for the opposition at the UN-brokered talks.

"The aim is to get rid of the totalitarian regime, either by making it fall politically through a transitional arrangement backed by the international community or through resistance on the ground to the end."

The head of Faylaq al-Rahman's political bureau, Mutassem al-Shumeir, is a member of the opposition delegation in Geneva.

Back home in the Syrian capital, the Islamist group's fighters have joined an offensive in eastern Damascus along with the Tahrir al-Sham alliance which is dominated by Fateh al-Sham Front -- known as Al-Nusra Front before it renounced its ties to Al-Qaeda.

Formed in early 2013, Faylaq al-Rahman is itself the result of an alliance between several factions.

Its main presence is in the Eastern Ghouta region outside the capital, a rebel stronghold, but it also has hundreds of fighters in the eastern Qalamun mountains towards the Lebanese border.

And it is influential in the Jobar region of Damascus, from which the Damascus assault was launched last Sunday, sparking the heaviest clashes in the capital in two years. 

The group is led by dissident army captain Abdel Nasser al-Shumeir and has an estimated 9,000 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Qatar and Turkey figure among its foreign backers.

According to Alwan, Faylaq al-Rahman is "far from the ideologies of certain groups considered as extremist".

"Our revolutionaries act on the basis of the principles of the revolution and the struggle against the regime," he told AFP.

Alwan said preparations for the Damascus offensive started three months ago but the assault was only launched in response to regime attacks on Eastern Ghouta and rebel districts of the capital, ahead of the Geneva talks.

While the regime has denounced the Damascus attacks as a bid to sabotage the peace talks, Alwan said it was "legitimate defence" in the face of government efforts to force the opposition into submission through sieges and air strikes.

Faylaq al-Rahman was one of the factions which signed a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey that came into effect on December 30 but has been repeatedly violated.

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