Kafranbel (Syria) – Two figures of the uprising against the Syrian regime in 2011, also critical of jihadist groups, were killed on Friday in Idleb Province, the country’s last major insurgent stronghold, an NGO and a radio in which they worked.
“The two militants Ra’d Fares and Hammoud al-Jneid were shot dead by unidentified men aboard a van in the city of Kafranbel”, in northwestern Syria, said on his Facebook page “Radio Fresh “, founded in 2013 by Mr. Fares.
Messrs. Fares and Jneid, who worked for Radio Fresh, were targeted at the time of the weekly Muslim prayer, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
They “were famous for their critical positions of the insurgent-led violations, especially the jihadists,” OSDH director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“Both were repeatedly detained by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”, the new name of al-Nusra Front, the former Syrian branch of Al Qaeda that dominates Idleb, he said.
– “Democracy, tolerance” –
Mr. Fares was also known for his placards, often written with humor, in English and Arabic, in support of the revolt against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Also targeting the passivity of the international community, his posters were widely relayed on social networks.
Aged 46, he was the father of three children, while Mr. Jneid, 38, had five children, according to members of their entourage contacted by AFP.
In January 2016, Mr. Fares was briefly abducted by al-Nusra jihadists with a colleague. The premises of his radio had also been targeted by attacks.
In June, regretting the suspension of Washington funding for his radio, Fares reiterated his commitment to “democracy” and “tolerance”.
“In the absence of peaceful, democratic voices, terrorists have been able to convince vulnerable Syrian youth that violence and destruction can open the door to stability,” he wrote in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post. .
“Civil society groups and the independent media are working tirelessly to counter these messages, and Syria’s democratic future depends on our success,” he added.
The province of Idleb hosts a host of rebel factions and jihadist factions that engage in power struggles. Targeted killings and bombings regularly rock the region.
– “The voice of Kafranbel” –
Friday, the consternation seized the friends and relatives of the two men at the announcement of their death. Among them, Ali Dandouch survived the shooting. This colleague on the radio was in the car carrying them at the time of the ambush.
“Three men came down from a van and began to strafe the car.I was in the back seat (…) I would have preferred to die with them (…) They were everything for me”, a- he told an AFP employee in Kafranbel.
For activist Bilal Bayouch, who went to the hospital just after the shooting, Raëd and Hammoud were “the voice of Kafranbel”.
Dozens of people gathered in a village cemetery for funerals. With the help of shovels, men buried the graves dug for burial while others were crying.
In the early hours of the popular uprising in March 2011 against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Kafranbel had quickly attracted the attention of the media. Kafranbel’s protesters rivaled creativity and humor, especially through the banners held at rallies.
Triggered in 2011 with the repression of peaceful demonstrations by the regime, the conflict in Syria has become more complex over the years with the involvement of foreign countries and jihadist groups.
It has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions and refugees.