Al Qaeda group vows to attack Syrian rebels, opposition leaders

BEIRUT Wed Jan 8, 2014 1:55pm EST

Free Syrian Army fighters man checkpoints to prevent members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from entering Masaken Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Jalal Alhalabi

Free Syrian Army fighters man checkpoints to prevent members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from entering Masaken Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo January 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jalal Alhalabi

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - An al Qaeda affiliate based in Iraq and Syria has vowed to crush opposition groups it has been confronting in the worst outbreak of infighting among rebels since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Heavy fighting between rebels in Syria has killed hundreds of people over the last five days and rattled the al Qaeda-linked faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The group lost its main base in the northern city of Aleppo to rival rebels on Wednesday, a monitoring group said.

The statement from the ISIL spokesman was issued late on Tuesday, hours after the head of the al Qaeda branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, called for a truce to halt the fighting.

The clashes have pitted many rebel groups in Syria, including Islamist forces, against ISIL and have been the bloodiest rebel-on-rebel violence since the civil war in Syria began in the first half of 2011.

"Crush them completely and kill the conspiracy in its cradle," said ISIL's spokesman, known as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani.

While both the Nusra Front and ISIL have roots in the global al Qaeda network and welcome foreign militants, the Nusra Front has focused its goals on toppling Assad instead of creating an Islamic state, which has been the main aim of ISIL.

Nusra forces have also cooperated more with other rebel groups and largely avoided the power struggles that ISIL has faced since wresting control of many opposition-held areas from other groups.

ISIL is the restructured al Qaeda branch of Iraq, but its spread into Syria is opposed by al Qaeda's central leadership, which has recognized the Nusra Front instead.

Adnani said fellow Islamists from the Sunni Muslim sect had been dragged into a conspiracy against it.

"Those who are from battalions raising the flags of Islam, who tricked you? Who implicated you and made you sign to fight against the mujahideen (holy warriors)?"

"PLUCK THE HEADS"

In Adnani's audio message, he also told ISIL fighters to "pluck the heads" of any leaders of the Syrian National Coalition - the internationally recognized opposition - or rebel groups tied to them.

"Kill them wherever you find them and without dignity," he said. "They launched this war against us and started it ... Therefore anyone who is a member of this entity is a legitimate target for us wherever he may be, unless he declares his innocence from this sect in public and renounces his fight against the mujahideen."

It was impossible to verify the authenticity of the statement, but it was widely cited on Islamist social networks on the Internet.

Rebel groups last week launched what appeared to be a series of coordinated strikes against ISIL in northern and eastern Syria after months of increasing tensions with the group, which has alienated many Syrians in rebel-held regions. The fighting was endorsed by the opposition's mainstream National Coalition, which is backed by Western and Gulf states.

Islamist rebels on Wednesday took control of ISIL's main base in Aleppo, a northern city that was once Syria's largest and is now divided between government and rebel forces, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Some 385 people have been killed in the rebel infighting since Friday morning in Aleppo, Raqqa, Idlib and Hama provinces, according to the Observatory.

Fifty-six of those killed were civilians - nine executed by ISIL and the others caught in crossfire - while 131 were ISIL fighters and 198 were from rival factions, it added.

The ISIL base was located in a children's hospital, the opposition monitoring group said, adding it was unclear what happened to the hundreds of fighters based there but dozens of prisoners were reported to have been freed.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Will Waterman and Giles Elgood)

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Comments (4)
QuidProQuo wrote:
Unbelievable that these creatures even consider themselves human let alone HOLY. So animalistic and without any self control. Soul-less creatures not even fit to be calle human beings. Sadly they are not ever going to change their hearts so i have no qualms about writing them off as Satan’s spawn. I don’t why all of the radical freaks think that murder and bloodshed somehow opens the doors to paradise. Whatever brainwashing they’ve succumbed to is just so poisonous that they are too far gone to ever be cleansed of their evil ways. I have no compassion for any of the them- the rebels or the nut case Islamic radicals. They will reap what the sow. Death and destruction. Misery and darkness. Hell on earth for themselves and their offspring. They will never know what a good life could be like if only they turned from their evil ways.

Jan 08, 2014 1:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
QuidProQuo wrote:
Unbelievable that these creatures even consider themselves human let alone HOLY. So animalistic and without any self control. Soul-less creatures not even fit to be calle human beings. Sadly they are not ever going to change their hearts so i have no qualms about writing them off as Satan’s spawn. I don’t why all of the radical freaks think that murder and bloodshed somehow opens the doors to paradise. Whatever brainwashing they’ve succumbed to is just so poisonous that they are too far gone to ever be cleansed of their evil ways. I have no compassion for any of the them- the rebels or the nut case Islamic radicals. They will reap what the sow. Death and destruction. Misery and darkness. Hell on earth for themselves and their offspring. They will never know what a good life could be like if only they turned from their evil ways.

Jan 08, 2014 1:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MikeBarnett wrote:
The Syrian uncivil war continues, but it appears to have become more fragmented as the rebels divide into the “leaders” in the West who don’t fight, various Syrian rebel troops on the ground who do fight, the al Qaeda fighters who want to set up the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and the al Qaeda fighters who follow al Qaeda’s original plan to be trainers and advisors to islamic insurgents in muslim countries.

Against this chaotic rebel situation, Assad has his military, police, Hezbollah fighters, and Iranian instructors and advisors. As the official president, Assad can buy arms and munitions from China and Russia that governments have the legal right to buy. Under the current circumstances, Assad is likely to win the war.

Jan 08, 2014 1:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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