Syrian footballer and 'singer of revolution' killed in conflict


Goalkeeper Abdul Baset al-Sarout dies of wounds sustained in battle with government troops

A Syrian footballer who became a symbolic figure in the rebellion against the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has died of wounds suffered in a battle with government forces.
Abdul Baset al-Sarout, 27, who rose to fame as a goalkeeper for his home city of Homs, joined peaceful protests against Assad in 2011 and was known as the “singer of the revolution”. He later took up arms as the country slid into civil war. Four of his brothers and his father have also been killed in the fighting.
Sarout’s life and his role in Syria’s uprising and conflict was the subject of Return to Homs, a documentary film that won an award at the 2014 Sundance film festival.
Cpt Mustafa Maarati, a spokesman for the Jaysh al-Izza rebel group, said Sarout died of wounds sustained two days ago while fighting in northern Hama province.
Fighting intensified in north-west Syria on Friday after insurgents mounted an attack to repel an army offensive to retake the last major rebel stronghold.
The violence in Idlib province and a strip of nearby Hama is the worst escalation in the conflict since the middle of last year. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, many of them sheltering at the Turkish border from airstrikes that have killed scores of people.
Assad has reclaimed much of Syria with the help of Russia and Iran. Sarout was among hundreds of thousands of people, both civilians and fighters, shuttled to the north-west in recent years under surrender deals.
He fought in his city of Homs, but left in 2014 when such a withdrawal deal ended a two-year siege. Four of Sarout’s brothersand his father have also been killed in the fighting.