World Bulletin / News Desk
The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army has visited the coastal province of Latakia, according to video footage, a show of force in President Bashar al-Assad's family's home province.
Several villages in Latakia, which is a stronghold of Assad's sect, have been overrun by Sunni Muslim insurgents over the past few days.
General Salim Idriss, who leads the rebel Supreme Military Council, was shown in a video uploaded to the Internet on Sunday wearing casual dress and a shoulder-strapped gun holster and standing outside with mountains in the distance.
Speaking to rebels, he said he was in Latakia to see the "important successes and victories that our revolutionaries have gained on the coastal front".
Idriss' forces are backed by the West, but the Latakia offensive is being led by two groups who have killed hundreds of people this month and driven hundreds more to seek refuge on the Mediterranean coast.
Underfunded and fragmented, Idriss' men have been overshadowed by these hardline groups and some more moderate rebel leaders have been killed in power struggles with al Qaeda affiliates that include foreign fighters.
One group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, issued a statement on Sunday saying its fighters were now "a stone's throw from Qurdaha", the Assad family's hometown.
Combined with a steady fight back in the southern province of Deraa, it highlights the challenge Assad faces in trying to restore his authority across Syria after two years of conflict that has killed 100,000 people and fragmented the country.
Assad controls much of southern and central Syria, while rebels hold northern areas near the Turkish border and along the Euphrates valley towards Iraq. The northeast corner is now an increasingly autonomous Kurdish region.Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Ağustos 2013, 13:10