Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Colonel Malik al-Kurdi, the Free Syrian Army’s [FSA] deputy commander, has denied that fighters at the Bab al-Hawa crossing point between Syria and Turkey were members of the Al-Qaeda organization, calling the claims, “totally baseless”.
This denial coincided yesterday with the Syrian opposition’s announcement of the capturing of the Al-Salama border post with Turkey after seizing control of Bab al-Hawa last Thursday.
Agence France Presse cited one of its photographers at the Bab al-Hawa crossing point as saying that “a group of around 150 fighters from several Islamic countries are positioned in the crossing” and pointed out that several of them declared “they belong to the (Taliban shura) while others said they belong to (Al-Qaeda).”
Al-Kurdi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the fighters who appeared at the Bab al-Hawa after the FSA seized it “are FSA fighters of various ideologies, sectors, and affiliations and have no connection with the Al-Qaeda organization.” He stressed that “the FSA includes all Syrian society’s sectors and these – with their various affiliations — are operating under the FSA’s banner.” “We are absorbing all society’s sectors, the radical, secular, and other ones, for the purpose of achieving a balance for a Syrian society that is known for its pluralism.” Al-Kurdi added.
The deputy FSA commander asserted that “there are no elements from the Al-Qaeda organization present in the FSA’s ranks” and “absorbing all the fighters is our aim because we do not want to clash with anyone. The combat conditions also necessitate the presence of persons not wearing military uniforms who let their beards grew. Moreover, our resources do not enable us to provide military uniforms for the fighters but this does not mean that they are from (Al-Qaeda).” He stressed that “appearances are not fundamental and cannot be judged.”
Regarding Arab and Islamic participation in the fight against the Syrian regime, Al-Kurdi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the participation “is limited to the presence of doctors who are helping treat the wounded in the combat areas” and said: “The fighters are Syrians only. I do not deny the arrival of doctors from international organizations in the combat areas to help treat the wounded.”
With the FSA announcement of its control of border crossing points with Iraq, the issue of the arrival of Al-Qaeda elements at the Iraqi-Syrian borders in preparation for entering Syria to fight against Al-Assad has returned to the forefront. According to TIME magazine, Iraq “is now being used as a field for organizing Al-Qaeda’s attacks against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”
Reacting to these “allegations”, Col. Al-Kurdi stressed that “Al-Qaeda organization and its ideology are unacceptable in Syrian society” and pointed out that the “Syrians are angry with the international community which is helping the emergence of radical trends and finding fertile soil for their appearance by its refusal to back the FSA.” After declaring “we are seeking to contain these trends within the FSA”, he said “when the international community abandons the FSA others will support other trends thus bolstering their emergence and opening doors for their presence.” He asserted that supporting the FSA “makes it an umbrella embracing all the fighters and all the trends which enables it to control all the groups and prevent them from veering off, even ideologically, into any direction that is unacceptable in Syrian society.”