Thousands of militants belonging to the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) have reportedly pulled out of Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo, with their leader fleeing to Turkey.
Turkey’s English-language Hurriyet Daily News, citing an unnamed high-ranking Turkish security source, reported on Tuesday that 14,000 FSA militants have withdrawn from the flashpoint city, situated 310 kilometers (193 miles) north of the Syrian capital city of Damascus.
“The group’s leader, Jamal Marouf, has fled to Turkey,” confirmed the source, adding, “He is currently being hosted and protected by the Turkish state.”
The source refused to give an exact date of Marouf’s escape but said it took place within the past two weeks. The source also declined to provide any information about Marouf’s whereabouts in Turkey.
The FSA has lost control over the Bab al-Hawa border crossing following its withdrawal from Aleppo.
This comes as militants from other terrorist groups, including the Takfiri ISIL and al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, are still fighting against the Syrian army forces in Aleppo.
Also on Tuesday, Syrian army units conducted operations in Syria’s town of Sheikh Miskin and several villages in the southwestern province of Daraa, killing scores of al-Nusra Front militants and destroying a number of vehicles used by them.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. More than 200,000 people have been killed so far in the conflict, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein.
Western powers and some of their regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are reportedly supporting the militants operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.