Thursday, August 23, 2012

Foreign Fighters Flocking To Syria As Civil War Continues

Dozens of people were killed near Damascus when the Syrian military opened fire on apartment complexes in the city. The fighting is particularly intense in Daraya, on the southwest edge of Damascus, and in Hajar al-Aswad. Both are rebel strongholds. At least 10 security forces were killed when rebels attacked a government checkpoint on the Daraa-Damascus highway.

Meanwhile, foreign fighters are flocking to Syria just as they did in fighting in Libya and Iraq. The Russians believe at least 10-15,000 foreign fighters are in Syria, but the Russians don't break down who those foreign fighters are siding with.

The numbers are significant, and it further appears that at least one of those killed was involved in the conflict in Chechnya. The son of a Chechen warlord was among those who died in the Syrian conflict. While some reports indicate that he died while fighting on the side of the rebels, others indicate that he was a bystander in the conflict and that he was trying to leave the country.
Rustam Gelayev was killed in the shelling of a mosque in Aleppo by forces loyal to Assad earlier this month, according to the website

The report, which cited unidentified sources in Chechnya, said Gelayev, 24, had joined a unit of ethnic Chechen volunteers fighting alongside Syrian insurgents in a 17-month-old uprising against Assad, who has close ties with Moscow.

Another website sympathetic to the insurgents,, said he had been killed when his unit "entered into a battle with superior forces of the Alawite regime ... presumably between August 11 and August 13."

Syria's conflict pits largely Sunni Muslim insurgents against Assad's minority Alawite community that has long dominated the power structure. Chechens are Sunni Muslims.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant, however, cited a relative of Gelayev as saying he had been studying in Syria, had decided to leave because of the violence and was making his way to Turkey when he was killed.
Fighting has continued across the country, from Aleppo to Damascus.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that the Bashar al-Assad's media flacks are blaming the rebels for the death of a Japanese reporter who was killed earlier this week.
Veteran Japanese war correspondent Mika Yamamoto on Monday became the first foreign journalist to die in Aleppo since clashes between rebels and regime forces erupted there almost a month ago.

Rebels have said she was killed by regime forces. Japan's Foreign Ministry said she was hit by gunfire while traveling with rebels from the Free Syrian Army.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said Thursday that journalists who behave in an "irresponsible" way should expect all kinds of possibilities.
The Syrian government has been trying to stifle any kind of independent journalism in the country, limiting what journalists can say or view. Yamamoto was killed because he was embedded with the rebels when they came under fire.

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