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Al-Qaeda's Latest Target: Syria's Civilian Activists

Opposition activists are being targeted by al-Qaeda fighters in rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
Blood covers the walls and furniture of a restaurant after a suicide bombing, at al-Basel Sport city in Aleppo, August 22, 2013. A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up in the crowded restaurant during a private party, killing at least seven people according to Syria's national news agency SANA. Picture taken August 22, 2013. REUTERS/George Ourfalian (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT BUSINESS) TEMPLATE OUT - RTX1

ALEPPO, Syria – This is my third visit to Aleppo in the last year, but the first time that I saw fear in the eyes of my Syrian activist friends accompanying me. They are not afraid of Bashar al-Assad's regime or of bombs or of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Rather, what scares them are the checkpoints manned by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS — also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), the main al-Qaeda force in Syria. Kidnappings and executions have been steadily increasing.

Hazim al-Azizi, a photographer at the media center in Azaz, was the latest Syrian activist to be killed by al-Qaeda. An ISIS sniper shot him on Sept. 18, when the town of Azaz, 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the border with Turkey, became the scene of two days of heavy fighting between the ISIS and FSA. On the same day, ISIS gunmen kidnapped Mohammed Nur Amuri, director of the Azaz media center, along with nine other activists in his office. One man, Abu Mohammad, managed to save himself.

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