LOCKED UP: Jabhat a-Nusra arrested the leader of the most prominent FSA-affiliated battalion in the opposition-held city of Rastan in northern Homs province Saturday, a commander in the battalion and cousin of the detained leader told Syria Direct Monday.
Hassan Ashtara, the captured rebel leader, originally comes from Rastan and had been a commander in the city since the opposition forces took control of it in 2012.
“We’re waiting for what the court wants to do with [Hassan Ashtara], who was detained on groundless charges,” said his cousin Abdul Hamid Ashtara.
“He is a well-known man, not an extremist,” Ashtara said. “He does not follow any group or party.”
The news was first announced on an official Nusra Twitter account for Homs province on Saturday.
“Confirmation of the news of Hassan Ashtara’s arrest, leader of the corrupt, as he tried to escape to Turkey.”
The account said that Nusra was assisted by fighters from Ahar a-Sham and Feilaq Homs.
Jabhat a-Nusra also arrested a number of citizens in the operation, but refrained from detaining fighters, Ashtara added.
Rastan, located 25 kilometers north of regime-controlled Homs city along the strategic M5 Damascus-Aleppo highway, is one of the few rebel strongholds in the province.
The town produced some of the earliest Syrian military defectors and is the ancestral town of the Sunni Tlass family. General Mustafa Tlass served as longtime Defense Minister and confidant of the Assads, both father and son, for decades. His son, Manaf Tlass, was a close ally of Bashar al-Assad who defected in 2012 and fled to Paris.
Nusra’s attack on FSA fighters in Rastan mirrors similar campaigns by the militant Islamist group against the US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front in Idlib over the past month.
-November 12, 2014
-Photo courtesy of .
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