Syrian opposition group elects new leader

AP News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2016 12:45 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — One of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition groups elected a new leader Saturday after the term of its former chief ended, it said in a statement.

The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition said longtime member Anas al-Abda was elected president, replacing Khaled Khoja. It added that three other officials from the group have been named vice presidents.

The coalition was once the main Western-backed opposition group. It is currently part of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, which was to represent the opposition in indirect peace talks with the Syrian government next week in Geneva.

However, the talks was thrown into doubt Friday, when HNC chief Riad Hijab said that circumstances were not suitable to resume the talks next week.

Despite a truce brokered by the U.S. and Russia, Syrian military operations are still ongoing, detainees have not been released by Damascus and little aid is entering rebel-held besieged areas, Hijab said in Paris.

The cease-fire went into effect on Feb. 27 and since then violence has dropped. The cease-fire does not include the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria known as the Nusra Front.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that tracks Syria's civil war, reported on Saturday that during the first week of the cease-fire, 132 people, including 35 civilians, were killed in areas included in the agreement.

The group said another 552 people were killed in areas where IS has a significant presence.

That would represent a significant decline since before the cease-fire, when around 5,000 people were killed each month in Syria. The five-year war has killed at least 250,000 people and displaced half the country's population.