Islamist gains in Syria alarm some Assad allies

Photo: Islamist gains in Syria alarm some Assad allies / Arab World

A mounting death toll in President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces is causing alarm among some government loyalists who are worried about Islamic State's territorial gains and are turning their anger on the authorities in Damascus, Reuters reported.

The execution of scores of Syrian soldiers taken captive by Islamic State at an air base in Raqqa province has triggered unusually harsh social media criticism of the Damascus government by people who have taken its side in the civil war.

Some, including one of Assad's cousins, have called for the resignation of the defense minister, blaming him for the loss of the Tabqa air base that represented the government's last foothold in a province otherwise controlled by Islamic State.

With the flow of information from Syria greatly restricted, it is not possible to gauge how widely such sentiment is felt. And it is not the first time the Syrian government has faced criticism from its supporters during the three-year conflict.

But it points to a potential pressure point for Assad, who draws support from minority groups including his own Alawite community for whom Islamic State is an existential threat.

"I demand the resignation of the minister of defense, the chief of staff, the air force commander, the minister of information, and whoever is responsible for the fall of the Tabqa military airport," Duraid al-Assad, the cousin of Bashar al-Assad, wrote on his Facebook page.

Duraid is a son of Rifat al-Assad, who left Syria after being accused of attempting a coup in the 1980s against the late president Hafez al-Assad. Contacted by Reuters via his Facebook page, Duraid said he currently lives in Syria.

His status was endorsed more than a thousand times. Dozens of people wrote comments expressing their agreement.

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