Free Syrian Army top commander killed in Syria's Aleppo

AFP , Saturday 15 Dec 2012

Colonel Yusef al-Jader, Free Syrian Army's `top commander was killed in a major battle for a military academy

A top rebel commander in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo was killed in a major battle for a military academy on Saturday, his brigade said.

"It is with pride that Liwa al-Tawhid (brigade) announces the death in combat of the hero martyr, Colonel Yusef al-Jader (Abu Furat)," the brigade said on its Facebook page.

Abu Furat was killed during battles pitting troops against rebels trying to "liberate" a major military academy at Muslimiyeh, just north of the embattled city of Aleppo.

Abu Furat once headed a tank brigade in the Syrian army, but defected to join the rebels after putting his wife and children in a safe area of the war-torn country.

After joining Liwa al-Tawhid, a rebel brigade linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, Abu Furat became commander of military operations in Aleppo.

He frequently fought on the front lines of key battlegrounds such as Salaheddin and Seif al-Dawla, in the city of Aleppo.

Sharp-witted and friendly, Abu Furat was loved by his supporters.

"I propose that the Infantry Academy be renamed 'Martyr Abu Furat School'," one person wrote in a commentary posted on Liwa al-Tawhid's Facebook page.

Abu Furat welcomed and provided cover to several AFP teams covering Syria's conflict in Aleppo.

On Saturday, rebels came close to scoring a significant victory as they captured large parts of the military academy, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"This is one of the most important military academies in all of Syria," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Elite Republican Guard troop reinforcements were deployed by helicopter to try to push back the rebels, said the monitoring group.

According to the Observatory, a large but unidentified number of soldiers and rebels have been killed in fighting around the academy.

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