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FSA has 400 fighters in Kobane – and more to come, says commander

THE LEVANT – The Free Syrian Army (FSA) already has 400 fighters in Kobane and more are on the way, the commander of a unit there said in a rare public appearance Thursday.

Nizar al-Khatib, who said he was in charge of an FSA unit sent into Kobane, told reporters in Istanbul that a command post had been set up to coordinate activities between his forces and the Kurdish fighters also battling Islamic State (IS) jihadists for the town.

The FSA rebels, who are opposed to the regime in Damascus, have joined Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the defence of the mainly Kurdish Syrian border town and are expected to be joined shortly by Kurdish peshmerga fighters from northern Iraq.

Dressed casually in civilian clothes in a jacket and open-necked shirt, Khatib said that FSA forces had been present around Kobane even before the current fighting started.

“There were 200 of us from the region even before the first fighting started against Islamic State (jihadists) and now there are almost 400 of us and we are expecting other reinforcements,” he told reporters at an Istanbul hotel.

Turkey, which has long called for the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad as the sole solution for the Syrian crisis, is a strong supporter of the FSA.

Head of an FSA unit calling itself the “dawn of freedom”, Khatib said that coordination was good between his forces and the Kurdish factions, who have not always been allies in Syria’s civil war.

“The command of Kobane is not in the hands of a single individual,” he said.

“There is a command post where all the forces present are represented and take decisions together,” he said.

But he said that training of FSA forces as promised by Turkey had yet to materialise.

“There are discussions in progress with Turkey about the possibility of training the FSA forces. But nothing has really been decided. It has yet to get started,” he added.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the BBC earlier this week that Ankara wants the FSA to control Kobane if IS defeated, and not the Kurdish forces loyal to the YPG.

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