Syrian town turns against 'tyrannical' Jordan-backed rebel leader

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Locals tell MEE of violent protests against oppressive rule by Youth of the Sunna group leader

Syrians walk past damaged buildings in the southern hub town of Daraa (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 5 August 2016 20:34 UTC
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A small town in southern Syria erupted in protest against a prominent Jordan-backed rebel leader this week, in a rare show of anger to a local opposition group.

A disagreement between the leaders of Youth of the Sunna, one of the largest groups in the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, led to street protests and violence on Wednesday, sources told Middle East Eye.

Local activists reported that armed clashes in the town continued into Friday.

Youth of the Sunna, which is led by Ahmed al-Ouda, controls the small town of Busra al-Sham in southern Syria – close to the border with Jordan – as well as several surrounding villages.

Busra al-Sham and the surrounding towns have been under the control of factions from the FSA’s Southern Front – including Youth of the Sunna – since March 2015.

Rare violence broke out in the town this week after Ouda was accused of ordering an attack on the brother of his group’s former leader, Mohammed al-Taama, which left him severely injured.

In response to reports that Ouda was behind the attack, locals on Wednesday surrounded his headquarters, forcing him to leave the city along with his close companions.

On Friday morning, local activists reported that Ouda had returned to the town with a group of armed supporters and engaged in clashes with supporters of Taama's bloc, though these reports could not be verified.

Locals had told MEE that the unrest was a response not just to the alleged attack on Taama’s brother, but came after a string of attacks against locals blamed on Ouda.

“Youth of the Sunna has become tyrannical – they are corrupt and they oppress the people of Busra al-Sham,” one of the participants in the demonstrations against Ouda - who asked to remain anonymous - told Middle East Eye.

“The situation in the town has become unacceptable in recent weeks. I’m happy to see Ouda punished.”

The unrest, which saw residents of the town block roads before heading to Ouda’s compound, broke out on Wednesday after the failure of mediation by Dar al-Adl, a court established by the Free Syrian Army, which is now the only working judicial body in the southern hub town of Daraa and the surrounding areas, including Busra al-Sham.

Ouda is a prominent figure within the Southern Front, and has played a key role in the group’s operations room in the Jordanian capital, Amman, which has provided significant material and financial support to his group.

Ouda was aided in his rise to prominence within the Southern Front by a key backer, an Emirati national, who is an in-law of his.

Ouda’s key position saw him represent the Southern Front at a conference for different factions of the Syrian opposition held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last year.