Shelling of Salah Eddin Mosque

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Damage seen in Salah al-Din mosque, filmed by Syrian army, February 8

On Friday, February 8, it was reported by Syrian state media that rebel forces in Aleppo shelled Salah Eddin/Salahuddin/Salah al-Din mosque in al-Ashrafiah neighborhood. It was said they hit the holy place with mortars from a nearby area, killing one person - the mosque's imam, Sheikh Abdullatif al-Jumaili/Jamili.

Opposition sources have so far offered no better explanation for what happened.

The following page aims for brevity. The discussion page contains a much more detailed exploration.

Conflicting Reports

Official and allied Syrian sources said, like Syrian Radio and TV (SANA English): "Sheikh Abdullatif al-Jamili, Imam of Salah Eddin Mosque in al-Ashrafia in Aleppo city Martyred after Terrorists Group Fired Mortar Shells at the Mosque from Bani Zaid Area" Islamic Invitation Turkey (Hezbollah supporters) repeated SANA's report and added "reports also say at least eight people, including children and women, were killed in a separate mortar attack in the city on the same day."

The usual FSA-aligned opposition sources have not much to add - quite vague on The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) mentioned the incident in its daily summary for Dec. 8, calling the victim "a mosque preacher," killed by "an anonymous mortar shell." They also passed on a conflicting story; "other sources said that he was assassinated by gunfire infront of the mosque." The Local Coordinating Committes (LCC), in their own daily summary, failed to mention the incident at all, but confirm that "fierce clashes ... between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces" occurred in that district.

Further, Kurdish sources report clashes in al-Ashrafiah that day, between their own YPG forces and the Syrian army (see below). It's not clear if these were other clashes besides with the FSA, or if the FSA were taking credit for the YPG's fighting.

Location

Aleppo Al-Ashrafiah map.png
Al-Ashrafiah is a district in the northwest center of Aleppo, green in the map at right, here on Wikimapia, while Google maps has it expanding to the west. The Salah-al-Din mosque is labeled here, middle/north of the district. The location has been verified as matching with video of the damaged mosque and its grounds, filmed as the Syrian Army pushed through.

According to the Government-aligned sources, the attacks originated in Bani Zaid neighbourhood, slightly to the northwest. Backing the official reports by SANA and associates, aligned sources like breakingnews.sy add that the Syrian Army used the neigbourhood as gathering point to start an attack on Bani Zaid where they say militants have staged attacks on the surrounding areas from for quite some time. This is also shown on the map in yellow. The distance is thus at least one kilometer.

The Imam

The available reports mention no deaths or even injuries aside from the imam of Salaheddin Mosque, Sheikh Abdullatif al-Jumaili/Jamili. As mentioned above, the SOHR heard conflicting reports that he was killed by shelling in the mosque, and that he was shot dead just outside it. One possibility is that he, and maybe his congregation, ran out after the shelling, and then he was picked off in an assassination.

SANA TV, in a video posted the same day, showed what seems to be photos of Sheikh Jumaili and his funeral. That seems to be arranged quickly, in style, and well-attended, if so. And, interestingly, the footage seems to be taken in some Christian place of worship. With Arabic narration only, we can't tell what's said, but it's presumably positive. The imam's political stance regarding "the revolution" are of some interest. Traces of this are hard to find in English, but at least one Arabic report, Syrian-government-connected, was filed from Aleppo on November 17, 2011. Locals from different districts voiced rejection of the Arab League's demands. He's given as (Google translated) Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Jumaili, sheikh clan of Bani Jamil:

Today we say yes to reform under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad and deplore and condemn issued by the Arab League resolutions aimed to destabilize Syria and undermine its security and reject sectarian strife and we with comprehensive reform. [1]

Being an Imam is not mentioned, but this is almost certainly the same prominent person, rejecting the rebel mission of destabilization. From that alone, it's quite possible he would wind up on one of their hit lists. And of course, it's possible that conclusion is obvious enough it would make a good false flag operation by "the regime" to smear the rebels with.

The Kurdish Question

Bird flying over decapitated Salah al-Din mosque minaret, filmed by Kurds, February 8
Complicating the developing picture are Kurdish reports of clashes between their YPG forces and the Syrian Arab Army in the same quarter at the same time, with no mentioning of Kurds by either the official or the FSA sources and no mentioning of the dead Imam by the Kurds. Al-Ashrafiah along with neighboring Sheikh Maqsood district are said to house some 600,000 Kurds, being the main Kurdish-dominated districts of the city. According to the sources, clashes started on Jan 31 after government bombing and ground operations took several lives on both sides, and escalated on February 8 after FSA forces entered the neighborhood and were attacked by the Army in return.[2] Some three-way fighting in unknown alliances may have ensued, with the Imam not mentioned by the Kurdish sources possibly meaning "the regime" invented him to blame their attack on the FSA, this Imam not being known to the Kurds who obviously took note of the damaged mosque (see picture), or something completely different.

References