[QODLink]
Middle East

Rebel infighting spreads across Syria

The recent infighting has been the most serious since armed groups initially rose to try overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

Last updated: 06 Jan 2014 21:56
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Clashes between Syrian rebels and their rivals from an al-Qaeda-linked faction have spread from the country's opposition-held areas in the north to a key eastern city, activists have said.

Monday's rebel-on-rebel fighting in the eastern city of Raqqa, a long-time bastion of an al-Qaeda-linked group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), reflects a widening war within a war in Syria, as the Free Syrian Army tries to quell more hardline elements of the opposition.

The recent infighting has been the most serious since armed groups initially rose to try overthrow the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The clashes erupted in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib on Friday after residents there accused ISIL fighters of killing a popular doctor.

An activist group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has estimated that at least 100 fighters on both sides have been killed since Friday.

ISIL is dominated by foreign fighters who initially fanned into Syria from neighbouring Iraq in March and set up camp in areas rebels had wrested from Assad-loyal forces, imposing a deeply conservative interpretation of Islamic law in the process.

Popular resentment towards the group from civilians has been building as the months progress and ISIL fighters began imprisoning citizens for perceived transgressions against Islam.

The rebels, meanwhile, have accused ISIL of overtaking their areas, seizing their weapons and detaining their fighters.

Rebel alliance

Raqqa is the only provincial capital to have fallen out of regime hands since the conflict erupted when regime opponents took up arms following a bloody crackdown by Assad's forces on protests in March 2011.

But it soon fell into the grip of ISIL, which is said to be holding hundreds of prisoners in their now besieged Raqqa headquarters, among them rival rebels, activists and journalists.

Monday's offensive in Raqqa came after three powerful rebel alliances on Friday launched what they called a second "revolution" against ISIL in the northern province of Aleppo and Idlib to its west.

"The foreigners are being held in other buildings, outside Raqqa city," said the Observatory.

Another activist group, the Local Coordinating Committees, also reported the Raqqa clashes, saying they were focused around a city post office.

The Observatory said rebels had surrounded ISIL's chief compound in Raqqa and had liberated at least 50 detainees from a nearby prison.

407

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.