Prominent Syrian opposition leader killed in Nagorno-Karabakh fighting

AZAZ, Syria (North Press) – Recently, a prominent leader from the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups was killed in the fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

A source told North Press that the leader of the Hamza group, Adel Shahir, died along with several of his fighters in battles that took place a few days ago in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh, is a mountainous region officially recognized as part of Azerbaijan, though it has a predominately Armenian population and is a de facto independent country which calls itself the Republic of Artsakh. The current fighting is the fiercest since the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Artsakh’s declaration of its autonomy from Azerbaijan.

Shahir was the commander in chief of the central forces in the Hamza group, and he was one of the first Syrian mercenaries to join the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Recently, his body, accompanied by the bodies of four of his members, arrived at the airport in the Turkish city of Antep, and then was transported to Syrian territory from the Bab Salama border crossing.

The source pointed out that Shahir was responsible for several violations against civilians from the Turkish-occupied Syrian city of Afrin due to his influence and authority in the city.

Shahir also played a major role in the kidnapping of Kurdish women, the latest of which were the women who appeared in a leaked video tape in late May in one of the group’s prisons in Afrin, according to the source.

The Hamza group is active in opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria and is a component of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army.

There are reports of Turkey sending Syrian mercenaries to support Azerbaijan, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country will stand by Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia.

Reporting by Khaled al-Hassan