A car bombing in the southern Turkish city of Antakya killed a major pro-US Syrian rebel commander today, Col. Jamil Raadoun of the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Falcons of al-Ghab. The bomb was planted under the driver seat of his car and detonated when he turned the key in the ignition.
Regional Governor Ercan Topaca suggested that the assassination could be the result of internal rebel fighting, though the Turkish central government claimed it was an assassination carried out by the Assad government itself, and one of several ongoing plots.
Col. Raadoun lived in Turkey in recent months, but was said to have command over some 2,400 rebel forces across Syria, including in several contested areas. Topaca said Raadoun had been targeted by bombings in the past but the bombs were detected in time.
And while Radoun was one of several rebels who was on the US payroll, he was also a regular critic of US policy, regularly going to media outlets to complain that the US wasn’t providing him with enough weaponry. He also complained US airstrikes against al-Qaeda were fueling a backlash against him and other US-backed rebels.
Raadoun was the second top FSA commander assassinated in recent weeks. The other, Abdullah Hussein Rifai, was shot and killed in Arsal, Lebanon in an attack that many believe was carried out by al-Qaeda as part of its anti-US push.
Though the FSA was once backed by Western nations, the US in particular, as the driving force in the Syrian rebellion, throughout the conflict the ground relied on Islamist factions to do the heavy lifting in combat. In recent years, the group’s influence has shrunk dramatically, which led the Pentagon to an ill-fated effort to create a brand new pro-US rebel faction to replace them. That faction, itself only about 54 troops strong, has also been a target of al-Qaeda.