13th January 2016
This is a report from a Latakia resident on the recent recapture of the strategic hill town of Selma:
“Selma is a very small village on the Turkish-Syrian border, just 1 hour drive North East from Latakia. With good hiking shoes you could walk to Turkey, and there was never any border fence, or guards or anything to prevent the free movement between Syria and Turkey at the location.
The local, native population of Selma numbered in the dozens. They were mainly Syrian citizens of Kurdish ancestry. They were not Turkman. Selma was strictly Sunni Muslim. Selma was not a famous place, or even a pretty place, or even a scenic place. Selma’s claim to fame was the fact it got cool evening breezes, coming in from the North and East, during t he HOT and HUMID summers in Latakia (June-October).
There is a village close to Selma called Slounfa. Slounfa is higher elevation, and is even colder, but the native population are Alowi. By car it is a 15 minute drive from Slounfa to Selma.
Slounfa was never in the hands of the rebels. Slounfa is a mountain resort, of the type that you find in Lebanon. Stone houses, oak trees, cedar trees, church and mosque. Slounfa’s claim to fame was also the cold evening air temperature all summer, and snow in winter, because of the high elevation. But, Slounfa is pretty, scenic and every panorama is a beautiful picture postcard scene. Selam never had the beauty, but had some of the cool temperatures during summer, and no winter snow.
Slounfa has summer house, summer cottages, and summer palaces. Slounfa’s resort status dates back to Ottoman days, and the French occupation of 1920-19146 saw added resort building, and t he French built a CASINO, not meaning gambling, but a resort hotel with musical (orchestra and singer) facility. Some of the singing legends of the Arab world did perform in Slounfa, even as early and the 1940’s and onward.
Selma was the ugly ‘sister’ to Slounfa. However, during the period of 1990-2011 a steady real estate development went on there. People from Aleppo and Latakia and other places (including Saudi Arabians and Qataris) built homes, apartments and palaces there. Selma, just like Slounfa, is full to capacity in summer, and deserted in winter. Both places were “summer-use-only”.
When the terrorists became mobilized and organized in 2011, they quickly set up head quarters in Selma. They were some Syrians, and many foreigners. The Australian cleric Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub , who was born in Latakia, set up shop in Selma, and his brother was killed fighting not far from there.
Sheikh Fedaa was identified as one of those involved in the Ballouta massacre
in August 2013, which kidnapped 100 small children, and held them underground in Selma. 9 months later
44 of the 100 were released, and the remaining are either dead, or still in Selma? Soon we will know….
[This is taken from Professor Tim Anderson’s report on the Ballouta Massacre]
[Sheikh Fedaa] Majzoub has been implicated in the mass atrocities at Ballouta and Kessab, both near the Turkish border. In Ballouta (August 2013) around 200 villagers were killed and another 200 kidnapped, by a combination of FSA and al Nusra jihadists. The same groups invaded the mainly Armenian Christian border town of Kessab (March 2014), killing 80 people and desecrating churches.
Syrian officials have identified Fedaa Majzoub as a key organiser of the Ballouta atrocities and he has admitted involvement in the Kessab kidnappings, suggesting however that they were humanitarian ‘evacuations’. The only Australian member of the now defunct Syrian National Council (SNC), Majzoub remains a member of the NSW branch of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC). The ANIC has made no statement on his activities in Syria. ~ Link to article here.
The terrorists were able to hold Selma and use it as a strategic location because of the tunnels they dug to connect them with the Turkish military, who were over the border, and officially supporting the terrorists in Selma.
It is a huge blow to the Syrian Opposition, their armed wing, the Free Syrian Army, and all their allied Al Qaeda type terrorists. The fall of Selma is a huge event.
Here in Latakia, we all could not believe that a tiny, tiny place like Selma would be so difficult to take control of. For almost 5 years we have only heard about “The Battles in Selma”. It became a story of epic proportions, like the legendary “never ending story”. Finally, after so many years, and so many martyred Syrian Arab Army soldiers, and civilians, we have victory.
It appears the next step is to march Eastwards to Idlib, then Jisr Al Sughour, and finally to march into Aleppo. After Aleppo, set sights on Reqaa. One step at a time. It can not be underestimated the value of the Russian Air Force. The ‘boots on the ground’ are still mainly Syrian men, but the Air power is Russian. The Russian intervention in late September, early October, has changed the course of the Syrian war.
[During a recent vist to Slounfa], we had one evening in Slounfa when the residents all came up onto their roofs with hunting rifles, used for shooting birds and rabbits.
When I saw I was faced with a real possibility of being over run by the terrorists, who were very close, I had to calculate how I and my guests could evacuate in the night, without any car available.
We passed that night and were not attacked, but we will never forget the look on the local residents up there who were prepared to fight to the death and stand their ground. After I returned home to Latakia, it was just days later the Russians arrived.
Since then, everything changed here. Latakia breathed a collective sigh of relief, and now we can see real progress and hope that an end to the war is possible.”