Colonel Riad Al-Asaad, the founder of the Free Syrian Army, an opposition group fighting against the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, is in Turkey undergoing treatment after he was injured in a bomb explosion in Syria, Sunday night, a Turkish official said.
Al-Asaad was wounded seriously in an overnight bomb blast that hit his car while he was on a visit to the town of Mayadeen, south of Deir Al-Zor in eastern Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. But there were conflicting claims on the health of Al-Assad, with some reports saying he was killed in the attack, while others said he was wounded and maimed losing his right leg.
A Turkish official who asked not to be identified confirmed that the rebel leader was in Turkey for treatment of blast injuries and described his condition as stable, Reuters reported. One of Asaad's legs was severed as a result of the blast, but his injuries were not life threatening, the official told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a Mayadeen activist told Associated Press via Skype that a bomb planted in the seat of the car that Al-Asaad was riding, blew up as he toured the town. Al-Asaad was traveling with an aide and a local activist, Barakat Al-Haweish, both of whom were slightly injured, the activist said.
According to the reports Al-Assad’s right leg was amputated in a local hospital before he was transported to Turkey.
"The attempt to assassinate Colonel Riad al-Asaad in Deir Al-Zor is part of an attempt to assassinate the free leaders of Syria," said Moaz Al-Khatib, who resigned Sunday as the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Reuters reported.
Col. Asaad once played a prominent role in the Syrian opposition’s armed struggle against the government, since his deflection in 2011. However, his official role in the rebel army declined after several rebel groups that fight under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opted for a unified command structure, backed by the western forces, with Gen. Salim Idriss as the new chief of staff, in December.
Nevertheless, Al-Assad remained a prominent figure among the rebel groups and was seen often with the rebel fighters on the ground in Syria.
According to the U.N. estimates over 70,000 people have been killed since the first protests in March 2011.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking Arab League official, on the condition of anonymity, said that Syria’s seat in the Arab League summit will be granted to Syrian opposition. The two-day summit starts Tuesday at Doha, Qatar.