Turkey foils Syrian plot to kidnap rebel leader Riad al-Assad


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Turkish security forces have foiled a plot to kidnap Syrian rebel commander Riad al-Assad from his headquarters in a refugee camp along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Authorities arrested three men in Turkey's southern Hatay province – one Syrian intelligence operative and two Turkish citizens – after the attempted attack last week and charged them with spying for Syria.

Turkey is hosting officers from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – a loose collection of armed rebels factions – as the Syrian regime continues its 15-month crackdown on dissent. Around 10,000 people have died so far, according to estimates from the United Nations. Turkey has gone to great lengths to show it is protecting Riad al-Assad – a former colonel in the Syrian army who emerged as the head of the FSA in October – after corrupt Turkish intelligence agents who were apparently collaborating with the Syrian regime kidnapped his predecessor, a defected Syrian officer named Hussein Harmoush, from Turkey in August.

Mr Harmoush later appeared on Syrian state TV issuing what opposition forces said was a forced confession, in which he claimed that "armed gangs" were killing civilians in Syria. An opposition group reported in January that he had been executed by firing squad after months in the regime's jails. Among the few to have emerged from Syria's notorious prisons is Salameh Kaileh, 56, a prominent Palestinian writer who this week described the jails as "human slaughterhouses".

Mr Kaileh spent almost three weeks in detention after he was arrested in Syria on 24 April on suspicion of printing leaflets calling for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He denies the charge.

Mr Kaileh was deported to Jordan after an outcry from Arab intellectuals led to his release.