Ex-ISIS Chief Appointed As Commander Of US-Backed Militia In Syria

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Damascus- The Syria Free Army (SFA), a US-backed militant group being trained inside Washington's Al-Tanf base in eastern Syria, appointed a former ISIS chief as their commander on 29 February.

“Today, the Syrian Free Army conducted a change of command and welcomed a new commander of the SFA. We thank COL Farid al-Qasim for 16 months of dedicated service to the SFA, the local community, and the 55-kilometer area,” the SFA said on Thursday via its Facebook page.


“We are excited for the new opportunities that [Colonel Salem Turki al-Antari] will bring to the SFA and the leadership he will provide. This step continues the SFA mission in the Region to secure and stabilize the 55 and defeat Da'esh (ISIS),” the statement added.

An SFA spokesman told the Syrian news outlet
Enab Baladi
that the change in leadership was routine and not the result of a dispute or problem.

He added that Washington did not interfere in the appointment, as it came as an internal decision within the faction. Muhammad al-Khalidi, the head of a local council in the US-occupied Al-Rukban area in eastern Syria, told the outlet otherwise, saying Qasim had been“provoking tribal divisions in the region.”

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Qasim's replacement,
Salem Turki al-Antari , is from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. According to ASO Network, he joined ISIS in 2014, going by the nickname Abu Saddam al-Ansari. The extremist group appointed him as the Emir of the Badia desert region in Homs.

Between 2015 and 2017, Antari took part in the ISIS takeover of Palmyra and the battles with the Syrian army that ensued. The ISIS assault on Palmyra destroyed some of Syria's most cherished cultural heritage.

He then became a part of the Ahrar al-Sharqiyah faction of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) militant coalition in 2017.

After the fall of Raqqa to US-backed Kurds in 2017, the SNA helped many ISIS fighters and commanders escape into SNA territory and
into their factions.

Antari took part in the Turkish-SNA assault on the northeastern city of Ras al-Ayn in 2019, which remains besieged to this day.

Antari then joined the Maghawir al-Thawra armed group, which in 2019 became a part of the US-backed Syria Free Army (SFA) that is now based in the US occupation base in Al-Tanf.

The US army has been training these militants inside Al-Tanf under the pretext of confronting ISIS.

However, ISIS cells have been highly active in the Syrian desert, which is geographically linked to the 55-kilometer area surrounding the Al-Tanf base. Syrian and Russian officials have repeatedly accused Washington of providing logistical support to ISIS in these areas.

Russia has launched airstrikes on the
Al-Tanf base
and militants located in its vicinity in the past.

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