Syrian Rebel Group Names New Leader

BEIRUT (dpa/TNS) -
Tents cover underground caves that are makeshift shelters for internally displaced Syrians in Om al-Seer, southern Idlib countryside, Syria December 26, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Tents cover underground caves that are makeshift shelters for internally displaced Syrians in Om al-Seer, southern Idlib countryside, Syria, Dec. 26. (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

Issam al-Boudani has been named the new leader of Syria’s Islamist rebel group, Jaish al-Islam, succeeding Zahran Alloush, who was killed in an airstrike near Damascus, Syria observers reported Saturday.

The activists describe al-Boudani, nicknamed Abu Hammam, as a calm and competent military commander, usually seen fighting alongside his comrades against the forces of Syrian President Bashar alAssad.

The 40-year-old former businessman is from the Damascus suburb of Douma, the same hometown as Alloush, and comes from a well-off Sunni family.

Al-Boudani joined Alloush a few months after Syria’s anti-government uprising started in 2011, and later became his deputy. The two established a foothold in the Damascus suburbs of Douma and Eastern Ghoutta.

Al-Boudani has strong ties with the international Muslim Brotherhood, according to Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In a video released late Friday, Jaish al-Islam vowed to continue to fight until “the Syrian people’s rights are regained” — a euphemism referring to the opposition’s demand for Assad’s ouster.