BEIRUT — The head of the military wing of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group has visited rebels in an embattled coastal province that is a stronghold of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect.

The Syrian National Coalition posted a statement along with a video confirming Gen. Salim Idriss' visit to Latakia province on Sunday.

In the video, Idriss is seen in civilian clothes, with a shoulder holster and a pistol as he talks with rebel fighters.

Over the past week, Islamic extremist rebel factions have captured several Alawite villages in Latakia. The regime has launched a counteroffensive to try to dislodge them.

Idriss leads the SNC's Supreme Military Council, which is the main conduit for Western non-lethal aid to secular-minded rebels fighting to oust the Assad regime.