Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The opposition Syrian National Coalition accused the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of having ties to the Damascus regime and serving the interests of the Bashar Al-Assad government on Wednesday.
The latest dispute between the western-backed coalition and ISIS comes amid accusations that the Islamist rebel group was responsible for the arrest, torture and killing of a doctor with ties to the Syrian opposition, who had been based at the Tel Abyad border crossing with Turkey in northern Syria.
“The Syrian National Coalition believes that ISIS is closely linked to the terrorist regime and serves the interests of the clique of President Bashar Al-Assad, whether directly or indirectly,” the opposition group said in a statement quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“The murder of Syrians by this group leaves no doubt about the intentions behind their creation, their objectives, and the agendas they service, which is confirmed by the nature of their terrorist actions that are hostile to the Syrian revolution,” the statement added.
The Coalition called on all Syrian rebels who have joined the Al-Qaeda-linked group to abandon it, and for ISIS leadership to be prosecuted, alongside the “criminals of the regime.”
This represents the strongest public criticism of the jihadist group from the western-backed coalition, and ISIS now finds itself being pressured on two sides, namely from the Syrian National Coalition and the Islamic Front—the largest Islamist rebel coalition operating on the ground in Syria but which excludes the Al-Qaeda-linked ISIS and Al-Nusra Front.
The Coalition claims that opposition doctor Hussein Al-Suleiman, known by his kunya Abu Rayyan, was arrested by ISIS in Aleppo province, adding that he was subjected to “the worst forms of torture” and then executed.
For its part, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has confirmed that Suleiman was a member of the Ahrar Al-Sham rebel group—a member of the Islamic Front.
“His body was handed over on Tuesday as part of a prisoner exchange,” the Observatory reported.
This is not the first time that ISIS had been accused of targeting other Syrian rebels. SOHR had previously posted a video reportedly depicting ISIS executing members of the Ghurabaa Al-Sham brigade in Idlib province.
Asharq Al-Awsat has also reported how ISIS has been targeting Syrian activists who had been prominent members of the Syrian revolution during its early days, before the revolution took on more violent and religious dimensions.
SOHR itself has reportedly been targeted by ISIS, receiving death threats from the Al-Qaeda affiliated group.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, SOHR director Rami Abdul Rahman said: “Our [media] sources are under threat from [Al-Qaeda-linked] ISIS,” and accused the Islamist rebel faction of being no different from the Syrian government.
Meanwhile, the SOHR reported this week that more than 73,000 people were killed in Syria in 2013, making it the bloodiest year yet in the Syrian civil war.
The NGO affirmed it had documented the deaths of 73,455 people between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013, adding that this figure included the death of 22,436 civilians.
SOHR said that the death toll for the entire war, which began in March 2011, now stands at more than 130,000.