Syria’s Rebel Free Syrian Army Downplays Extremist Fighters

'Maybe 500 Jihadists in Aleppo,' Commander Claims

by Jason Ditz, September 20, 2012

In an interview with the Associated Press, Col. Abdel-Jabbar Aqidi, the commander for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, sought to downplay the number of foreign jihadists inside the rebel movement, saying at most 500 jihadists are in Aleppo.

The estimate is far lower than what other reports would indicate, as while no numbers have been given they have repeatedly suggested a growing number of Islamist factions in Aleppo setting themselves up against not only the regime, but against secular rebels and promising to install a theocracy nationwide.

The comments appear designed to placate Western concerns that the funding they are providing to the rebels is ending up backing al-Qaeda linked factions, with Syria complaining to the UN that “thousands” of terrorists have entered through Turkey.

Turkey has openly backed the FSA, but have also seemingly turned a blind eye to the number of fighters flocking from Northern Africa, Libya in particular, with an interest in joining the rebel movement. Though it is impossible to get accurate figures from inside Libya, the “500 jihadists in Aleppo” claim seems an underestimation.

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