Unknown assassins kill leader of Kurdish-backed council in Syria

A legislative council in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor announced that its co-head had been assassinated on Saturday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A local council in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor announced that its co-head had been assassinated on Saturday.

According to the media center of the Kurdish-backed Deir al-Zor Civil Council, Marwan Fatih was killed by unknown assailants while on the road between the city and Hassakah, to the north.

The legislative body was formed in September with the aim of providing public services and managing the affairs of towns and villages liberated by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Deir al-Zor Civil Council has over 400 members, not a single member is a Kurd.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) later released a statement that said Fatih had been killed when fired upon by “unknown gunmen from active cells in the east of the Euphrates River... bringing the total number of people killed since August 22, 2018 to 119, in different ways and new targets, in line with previous targets.”

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the killing. 

In the past, the Islamic State (IS) and armed groups backed by Turkey have announced that they were responsible for previous assassinations of SDF-affiliated leaders. Many observers have also blamed the Syrian government for such incidents.

The leader’s death comes ten days after the surprise decision of US President Donald Trump to withdraw from Syria amid continued threats by Turkey to launch an invasion over its southern border into areas of Syria east of the Euphrates.

It’s not the first time prominent officials working with councils established by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) have been targeted.

Prominent tribal leader Bashir Faisal al-Huwaidi was assassinated in a vehicle in Raqqa in early November. IS claimed responsibility for the murder soon thereafter.

On March 15, Omar Aloush, a senior Kurdish official who played a key role with the US on stability efforts in Raqqa, was also assassinated in his home in Tal Abyad.

SDC Co-head Ilham Ahmed told Kurdistan 24 in December that she blamed Turkey for the killing of Aloush. She also claimed that Turkey and Turkish-backed rebels were behind any and all “explosion[s] in Manbij.”

Editing by John J. Catherine