Syria rebels want al Qaeda suspect to face trial

BEIRUT Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:33am EDT

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's main rebel group said on Monday that it wanted an Islamic court to investigate the killing of one of its top commanders at the hands of foreign Islamist fighters last week.

The call is the first official reaction by the Western-backed Supreme Military Council to the killing of Kamal Hamami, also known as Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, which has set liberal rebels and Islamists at each other's throats.

Rebel sources said Abu Ayman al-Baghdadi, the main suspect, is in hiding and there is no sign that he will be handed over to the court in the northern city of Aleppo by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked group in Syria to which he belongs.

"The Sharia court will look into the case ... all sides have been informed about this, the military council wants the killer to be handed over to the Sharia court," Qassem Saadeddine, spokesman of the Supreme Military Council, said after a meeting of the body.

"The Council also took a decision to ban checkpoints on main roads and also to ban masked gunmen from being present or manning checkpoints."

It was not immediately clear how the Council would be able to implement its decisions, which appeared to target Islamist militants who often wear black masks.

Rebel sources said the Council was trying to avoid direct confrontation with radical groups who are known to be fierce fighters and better trained and equipped than its own soldiers.

More than two years since the start a revolt-turned-civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syria has become a magnet for foreign Sunni Muslim fighters who have flocked to the Middle Eastern nation to join what they see as a holy war against Shi'ites.

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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