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Syria Rebels 'Lay Siege' on Al-Qaeda-Linked Fighters

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', children, conflict, death, government, middle-east, news, politics, Refugees&Relief, society, Syria, violence, world )

- 1901 days ago -
Rebels frees 50 prisoners, including Turkish journalist, held captive by Al-Qaeda-linked rivals.


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Kit B (276)
Monday January 6, 2014, 11:14 am
Photo Credit: Fadi Mashan/Reuters

Rebel fighters, including the newly formed Islamic Front, laid siege Monday to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in their northern stronghold of Raqqa, freeing 50 captives including a Turkish journalist, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Raqqa emerged as a new front Sunday in fighting among rebels battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad, with various groups joining forces against Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIL).

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

But soon afterward it fell into the grip of ISIL, which is said to be holding hundreds of prisoners in their now besieged headquarters in the heart of Raqqa.

One of those captives, Turkish photographer Ben Aygun from the newspaper Milliyet, was released Monday after being taken hostage in mid-December.

A spokesman for the Islamic Front told Al Jazeera his group had "freed" Aygun and transported him to Turkey via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

"Every night, I had the same dream that I was being freed. I cannot believe that I am free now. It feels like a dream," Milliyet quoted Aygun as saying.

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

On Sunday the rebel infighting spread to the central province of Hama, as well as Raqqa, and the Observatory says scores of insurgents have been killed on both sides.

A key complaint against ISIL among rebels including the massive Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and nascent Mujahedeen Army is that its extremist fighters refuse to operate within the broader opposition dynamic.

The Islamic State, as its name suggests, seeks to lay the foundation for the restoration of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Removing Assad from power is the first step the fighters want to take, and so their aims had initially aligned with moderate Islamist and civil-state-minded rebel factions.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "the main group laying siege to ISIL's headquarters in Raqqa is Al-Nusra Front," which like ISIL is affiliated with Al-Qaeda but is composed primarily of homegrown Syrian fighters and has been more cooperative with other rebel factions.

ISIL and Al-Nusra have fought each other in recent months, after ISIL announced it was Al-Qaeda's representative in Syria. Al-Nusra had been operating in Syria for longer, and refused to work under ISIL's command.

The 33-month conflict in Syria is estimated to have killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes as refugees or internally displaced persons.

Al Jazeera with wire services

Past Member (0)
Monday January 6, 2014, 1:40 pm
Interesting development.

Sue Matheson (79)
Monday January 6, 2014, 2:23 pm

. (0)
Monday January 6, 2014, 3:11 pm

pam w (139)
Monday January 6, 2014, 3:44 pm

Judith C (159)
Monday January 6, 2014, 4:22 pm
Noted the situation

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Monday January 6, 2014, 4:35 pm
Thank you for the important news.

. (0)
Monday January 6, 2014, 5:06 pm
Good for them! I hope things work out for them. Thanks for sharing, Kit.

Diane K (134)
Monday January 6, 2014, 6:15 pm
thank you for posting, Kit

Stephen Brian (23)
Monday January 6, 2014, 11:42 pm
This is an interesting development. Thank you.

Also, there have been updates on the al-Jazeera page from which the article was taken. The main one that I found was the replacement of "Greater Syria" with "the Levant", which explains the English abbreviation of the group's name.

One thing I find fascinating here is that the groups on both sides of this sub-conflict are linked to al Qaeda. It's a fight over Syrian nationalism (against pan-Arabism) where religious politics are not a uniting factor. I think I will keep a close eye on developments in Syria for a while. The "best case scenario" that I described in other threads about current issues in Syria may yet come out of this whole conflict.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday January 7, 2014, 1:13 am
Interesting, thanks.

Roger G (148)
Tuesday January 7, 2014, 2:19 pm
noted, thanks

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 7, 2014, 3:59 pm
I celebrate the prisoners' release.

Past Member (0)
Sunday January 12, 2014, 2:18 am
I fear that his is an intractable problem with numerous Islamic faction fighting each other the problem will not end until one faction becomes dominant over the others.Let them fight it out amongst themselves.
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