TEL AVIV – The rebel commander who hosted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in Syria yesterday has openly integrated an al-Qaida-allied organization into the ranks of his fighting group, WND has learned.
The commander further runs a council that includes rebel leaders fighting for the establishment of Islamic law.
McCain made the unannounced visit in a bid to petition for more U.S. support, including weapons, for the opposition fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebel leaders used McCain’s trip to ask the U.S. for heavy weapons and the imposition of a no-fly-zone under the banner of the so-called Responsibility to Protect doctrine.
According to the Daily Beast, which was first to reported the visit, McCain’s Syria trip was hosted by Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.
Idris reportedly traveled with McCain across the Turkish border into Syria, where the U.S. senator spent a few hours in the country meeting other rebel commanders.
Last month, the New York Times reported virtually every fighting force in Syria includes Islamic extremists.
The Times further reported rebels aligned with al-Qaida are imposing Islamic law in areas controlled by the opposition.
“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of,” reported the Times.
The Times article, by reporter Ben Hubbard, said Irgis had integrated into his Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army forces many overtly Islamist battalions.
The council “is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government,” reported the Times.
The Times further reported on the integration of jihadists into Ingris’ council: “One called the Syrian Liberation Front has been integrated nearly wholesale into the council; many of its members coordinate closely with the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that includes the extremist Ahrar al-Sham.”
Ahrar al-Sham is the Syrian group that shares the ideology of al-Qaida. It is widely regarded as the local branch affiliated with the Al Nusra Front, the al-Qaida-aligned force declared a terrorist organization by the United States.
According to a report by Elizabeth O’Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War, field commanders who are now part of Igris’ council come from the al-Tawhid Brigade, the Suqour al-Sham Brigade and the Farouq Brigades.
The al-Tawhid Brigades is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Suqour al-Sham Brigade pushes Islamic law.
The Farouq Brigades ran into controversy in April 2012 when it was accused of collecting Jizyah, or taxes imposed on non-Muslims living under Muslim rule, in Christian areas of Homs province. The Brigades later denied the reports.
Meanwhile, the Times in April further reported that’s in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with al-Qaida “control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law.”
“Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists.”
With additional research by Joshua Klein.