Rebels fight al-Assad troops from hills

2012-07-16 21:05
Abu Saeed, the leader of 15 Syrian rebel fighters who call themselves "Soldiers of the Prophet Mohammed", sitting with two rebels in a cement house where they have taken shelter. (AFP TV)

Abu Saeed, the leader of 15 Syrian rebel fighters who call themselves "Soldiers of the Prophet Mohammed", sitting with two rebels in a cement house where they have taken shelter. (AFP TV)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jabal Wastani - The 15 fighters who call themselves "Soldiers of the Prophet Mohammed" are not afraid of dying at the hands of the troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Their charismatic leader Abu Saeed says that for one month now, the army has laid siege to the rebels in the Wastani mountains overlooking the town of Jisr al-Shughur in the northwestern province of Idlib.

"If we must die, we shall by the will of Allah," the black-bearded Saeed says with a smile.

He and his men - all young army deserters - have only light weapons to confront the troops backed by tanks that surround Jabal Wastani.

"The situation here is complicated," said one rebel who calls himself Abu Steyf.

Since the uprising against the central government erupted in mid-March 2011, the region of Idlib where Jisr al-Shughur is located has shifted from being under army control to rebel control and then back again.

But on the ridges of Jabal Wastani the "Soldiers of the Prophet Mohammed" claim to have gained the upper hand.

"We control most of the zone," says Abu Steyf.

Five months ago he broke with army ranks after troops killed one of his brothers.

Rammed a bayonet

"My youngest brother was taking part in anti-regime protests. Assad's army came to arrest him but he wasn't home. So they rammed a bayonet into my older brother and killed him instead."

Most of the young fighters are bearded and sport tattoos. Some are still in their teens but all have one thing in common: they pledge, like Abu Steyf, to "fight to the death".

And the clock is ticking.

Syrian army tanks surround the area, and troops pound it more frequently and fiercely as days go by.

"The Syrian army can only shell us from a distance. The troops don't come here any more," says Abu Saeed.

He says his men's light weapons can do little to confront armoured vehicles.

Abu Saeed, 36, says he joined the uprising from the start of the movement in March 2011.

Three months later he was shot and wounded by security forces while taking part in an anti-regime demonstration.

"That's when I decided to take up arms," he says, adding that he was hit by four bullets that almost resulted in the loss of one arm.

Too skinny

Last week troops ambushed him but he managed to escape unscathed.

"They riddled my car with 25 bullets but failed to get me because I am too skinny," he says, laughing.

He carries a Kalashnikov assault rifle strapped across his white robe and a shotgun in a holster.

"We are fighting against injustice by protecting protesters against the wrath of the regime," says Abu Saeed.

Inside the small village of Jabal Wastani, residents rush over to him to seek his help in solving a trove of problems - wounded who need to be evacuated, and food, water and power shortages.

The fighters live in a desolate cement house, sleeping on the floor and relying on handouts from villagers.

Abu Saeed says medicines come across the border from Turkey.

The weapons they carry are mostly taken from soldiers "we capture," the rebel leader says.

Despite the name of the group - "Soldiers of the Prophet Mohammed" - few of the fighters appear to take time to say their five daily prayers or to be truly religious.

Their language is certainly far from holy. The group bends over with laughter when one of them, the shaven-headed and long-bearded Amar Jaffar, launches a torrent of invective at Assad and his family.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.