White Hel­mets medics killed in Syria’s Idlib

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gun­men early yes­ter­day stormed an of­fice of a Syr­ian para­medic group that is ac­tive in op­po­si­tion-con­trolled ar­eas, killing seven of its mem­bers and steal­ing two ve­hi­cles and other equip­ment in a north­west­ern re­gion, the group and op­po­si­tion ac­tivists said, while a sui­cide at­tack south of the country killed at least 23 rebels.

The Syr­ian Civil De­fense group, more pop­u­larly known as the White Hel­mets, said in a state­ment that the at­tack hap­pened in the early hours in the town of Sarmin. No one im­me­di­ately claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the rare at­tack but it came amid ten­sion in the area. Sarmin is in Idlib prov­ince, which wit­nessed clashes re­cently be­tween AlQaeda-linked fight­ers and mem­bers of the ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Ahrar Al-Sham group that ended with Al-Qaeda fight­ers cap­tur­ing much of the re­gion.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir al Sham Ara­bic for Le­vant Lib­er­a­tion Com­mit­tee, and also known as HTS - said over the past weeks that its mem­bers have dis­cov­ered sleep­ers cells of the Is­lamic State group who were plan­ning an at­tack. Al-Qaida’s af­fil­i­ate, which used by to be known as the Nusra Front, has fought deadly bat­tles with IS over the past years. The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said the seven were killed af­ter be­ing shot in the head, adding that the killings were dis­cov­ered when vol­un­teers from the White Hel­mets ar­rived to start a shift and found the bod­ies of their col­leagues.

“Until now it is mostly likely a crime. It might also be an at­tack aimed to harm the im­age of the Nusra Front and to show that Idlib is not safe,” said Rami Ab­dur­rah­man who heads the Ob­ser­va­tory. An op­po­si­tion ac­tivist based in Idlib who has been pro­vid­ing The As­so­ci­ated Press with in­for­ma­tion about the prov­ince for years said the at­tack­ers used pis­tols equipped with si­lencers, adding that peo­ple liv­ing nearby did not no­tice any­thing un­usual.

The ac­tivist, who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals, said IS sleeper cells have been dis­cov­ered in Sarmin. He added that most likely mem­bers of IS car­ried out the at­tack to show that Idlib is not safe. The ac­tivist said the HTSlinked Ju­di­cial Com­mit­tee is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case. Sarmin used to be a stronghold of the Jund al-Aqsa ex­trem­ist group that clashed with Al-Qaeda last year be­fore many of its mem­bers were al­lowed to head to ar­eas con­trolled by IS, whom they are fight­ing now.

The Syr­ian first-re­spon­ders have been known to risk their lives to save peo­ple from the civil war, now in its sixth year. The White Hel­mets group was widely con­sid­ered likely to win last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Else­where in Syria, a sui­cide at­tacker blew him­self in­side a train­ing camp for the Army of Is­lam rebel group in the south­ern town of Naseeb, near the bor­der with Jor­dan, killing more than 20 fight­ers. — AP


IDLIB: Mem­bers of the Syr­ian civil de­fense vol­un­teers, also known as the White Hel­mets, bury their fel­low com­rades dur­ing a fu­neral in Sarmin, a ji­hadist-held town nine kilo­me­ters east of Syria’s north­west­ern city of Idlib.

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