Unmistakable Voice: Spotter Mudar Abu Ali Keeps Rebels on Toes

Wednesday, 07 Aug 2013 10:15 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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The unmistakable voice of war spotter Mudar Abu Ali has become a fixture – and invaluable – for rebels across the northern Syrian countryside during that country's civil war.

Called "The Watchtower," Mudar leads a network of spotters in northern Syria who watch roads and military bases, broadcasting warnings about the movement of government forces that the rebels are trying to elude or to kill, according to New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers.

"Anyone who has been in the proximity of the rebels in Idlib or Hama Province has probably heard his voice crackling over the ubiquitous two-way radios that opposition fighters carry," Chivers wrote on the At War blog. "It is deep, fast and almost incessant, from early in the morning to night. Virtually every rebel in the region listens for it; many listen intently, in the way of people whose lives can depend on news."

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Chivers reported that Syrian rebels credit Mudar, whose surname is not used in the blog, with alerting fighters to potential targets. Mudar told Chivers that he attributes accuracy not to himself, but to those who help him.

"Everyone is in a specific spot," Mudar told Chivers and his spotters.

"For as long as there has been war there have been pickets, sentries, spotters, signalers and runners — those who keep tabs on foes and relay information to fellow fighters and friends," Chivers said about history of spotters like Mudar. "Mudar is the contemporary version of that role in the Syrian civil war now grinding through its third year. He is busy orchestrating the shadows following President Bashar al-Assad’s conventional forces."

Spotters like Mudar have become key players since the start of the civil war in 2011. According to ForeignAffairs.com, more than 80,000 people have been killed while nearly half of the country's population of 22 million has been displaced.

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The website said this month the total dead from the war could top 100,000, reaching that number much quicker than the 1990s conflict in Bosnia.

"This a full two years after U.S. President Barack Obama pronounced that President Bashar al-Assad needed to 'step aside,'" said Andrew Tabler, of ForeignAffairs.com. "Comparisons to the Balkans do not suffice to describe the crisis in Syria, however. The real danger is that the country could soon end up looking more like Somalia, where a bloody two-decade-long civil war has torn apart the state and created a sanctuary for criminals and terrorists."

Related stories:

Syria: A No-Win Situation for Obama

John Bolton: Obama 'Out in the Tall Grass' on Syria

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