Western-backed Syrian opposition leader Ahmed al-Jarba offers $ 500,000 to radical islamist group in Latakia -
Syrian National Coalition head Ahmed al-Jarba visited newly-captured rebel-held areas of Syria’s northwestern Latakia province Tuesday, including the town of Kasab on Syria’s northern border with Turkey and Tower 45, the highest point in northern Latakia. The Coalition announced that al-Jarba had met with rebels in Latakia a day after another Coalition representative undertook a “field visit” to Kasab and offered US$500,000 to the leader of the Islamic Front’s Ansar a-Sham. Since rebels launched what they are calling the “Anfal” offensive along Syria’s western coast on March 20, numerous combatants have cited fears by opposition politicians that a campaign in Latakia, the historic homeland of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect, would make the opposition vulnerable to accusations of sectarianism.
AHRAR AL SHAM
Ahrar al Sham is an extremist group that has fought alongside ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's two officially recognized branches inside Syria, against Bashar al Assad's forces.
Ahrar al Sham is a coalition of Islamist and Salafist units which formed into a brigade during the Syrian Civil War in order to fight against the Ba'athist government lead by Bashar al-Assad. Ahrar ash-Sham is led by Hassan Aboud. As of July 2013, it has 10,000 to 20,000 fighters, making it the most powerful unit fighting against al-Assad.
According to US intelligence officials, a few al-Qaeda members released from prisons by the Syrian government have been able to influence actions of the group and install operatives within senior ranks of Ahrar ash-Sham. Such ties were not disclosed publicly until January 2014 when a senior leader of Ahrar ash-Sham, Abu Khalid al-Suri, acknowledged his long-time membership in al-Qaeda.