ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Bashir Faisal al-Huwaidi, one of the most prominent tribal leaders in the Syrian city of Raqqa was assassinated on Friday in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. His body was found by the Internal Security Forces in Raqqa.
The killing is a setback for the efforts of the US-led coalition to bring stability to the city of Raqqa, once the de facto capital of IS in Syria.
“With deep sorrow and sadness we have been informed about the assassination of Bashir, one of the senior figures of the Afadlah tribe, and one of the prominent Raqqa Civil Council members, a patriot figure, and he played a very effective and positive role throughout the Raqqa Civil Council work,” the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC) said in a statement condemning the assassination.
“On behalf of the Raqqa Civil Council, we condemn this nasty crime that has no connection to humanity and we address those who are behind this terrorist operation, that our people in Raqqa with all its components, Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs, Turkmen and Circassians will not be trapped in this black agenda,” the statement read. “So we hope our people in Raqqa and Sheikhs and prominent tribal leaders [will] be aware of these plots and vile agendas that are trying to exploit and ruin our social fabric in Raqqa.”
“We in Raqqa Civil Council, we consider Sheikh Bashir Faisal al-Huwaidi, a martyr of the Raqqa Civil Council,” it concluded.
Huwaidi received two gunshots directly in his jaw and head, killing him immediately, the Kurdish news agency Hawar News reported, quoting Internal Security Forces.
Later in the day, IS claimed responsibility for the assassination, suggesting they had killed the tribal leader in the afternoon with a firearm equipped with a silencer.
“A[n] apostate called Bashir Faisal al-Huwaidi, one of the heads of apostates in Raqqa have been targeted,” the group said in a statement.
“The murder of community leaders is a central piece of the ISIS strategy after its territorial defeat. It’s a pattern we’ve seen playing out in multiple countries where ISIS operates, primarily in Iraq and Syria,” senior research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University and expert on Syria Hassan Hassan told Kurdistan 24.
“The objective is to discourage people, especially Sunni local leaders, from becoming involved in governance structures that have come after ISIS,” he concluded.
This is not the first time that assassinations have targeted leading members of the Raqqa Civil Council. On March 15, Omar Aloush, a senior Kurdish official who played a key role with the US in stability efforts in Raqqa, was assassinated in his home in Tal Abyad. Top Kurdish officials blamed Turkey for the assassination.
Moreover, in the past other Raqqa tribal leaders close to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa have been killed.
Editing by John J. Catherine