BEIRUT — Several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaida-linked faction, said Wednesday that they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition, as U.N. inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.
In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.
The statement reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people so far. It also highlights the growing irrelevance of the Coalition and its military arm headed by Gen. Salim Idris, who heads the Supreme Military Council supported by the West, amid increasing radicalization on the ground in Syria.
The rebel groups' statement called on all those trying to topple Assad's government to unite under a "clear Islamic framework," an apparent reference to the al-Qaida faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.
It said the rebels do "not recognize" any future government formed outside Syria, insisting that forces fighting on the ground should be represented by "those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices."