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Middle East

Syrian regional governor killed as rebel groups retaliate over alleged chemical attack


Rebel groups in Syria appear to be unwilling to wait for the international community to make up its mind about whether to punish the Assad regime for the alleged chemical attack in Ghouta last week, with some beginning action of their own.

In the first successful retaliatory strike a car bomb killed the governor of the central province of Hama on Sunday. Anas Abdul Razaak Naem was a prominent Syrian regime figure; he was head of the Baath party until 2011. The governor’s motorcade in the city of the same name was targeted by a device as he made his way home, according to Syrian State television. Clouds of smoke could be seen billowing above the town in the aftermath. 

In a separate move, the al-Qa’ida linked Islamic group Jabhat al Nusra announced it would be attacking Alawi villages in retaliation for the attack. In an audio recording titled “An Eye for an Eye”, its leader Abu Mohammed al Golani vowed to retaliate. “For every chemical rocket that has fallen on our people in Damascus, one of their [Alawi] villages will, by the will of God, pay for it.” He added that the group will prepare “a thousand rockets” to be fired onto Alawi villages as revenge for the “massacre” that took place in Ghouta.

Jabhat al-Nusra was not the only Islamic group to announce attacks on Alawi civilian targets. Another Islamic group, al-Qa’ida affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has vowed to avenge the Ghouta massacre with a 2,000 strong “martyrdom” brigade. It has already released footage of its soldiers heading to the Shia villages of Zahra and Nubl, in Aleppo province. Ahrar al-Sham has been pounding the Alawite village of Jurin with Grad rockets, according to footage on YouTube.

A number of opposition groups are also discussing whether to use chemical weapons. An escalation of this sort would signal a new and worrying phase in the two and a half year civil war. According to analysts Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, now aims to capture Al-Safira, a known chemical weapons facility in Aleppo. 

Rebels are also seeing delivery of conventional weapons pick up in the wake of the outrage following the shocking images which emerged on Wednesday. As many as 20 trailers, containing mostly ammunition, have been shipped across the Turkish border in the past 24 hours, according to rebel officials.