Al-Qaeda Tries to Control Areas Liberated by Free Syrian Army

Al-Qaeda has been taking over areas liberated by the Free Syrian Army to set up Islamic emirates, while some Syrian oppositionists call on the FSA to fight these al-Qaeda groups before it’s too late.

al-monitor Dany, a 14-year-old fighter, whom activists say is the youngest fighter in the Khadraa brigade operating under the Free Syrian Army, sits with a fellow fighter in Deir al-Zor, July 9, 2013.  Photo by REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi.

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syrian, salafist, internationalization of syrian conflict, al-qaeda

Jul 10, 2013

Al-Qaeda, which goes by the name the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISI), has declared war on the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Last week, several demonstrations broke out in Raqqa and in the rural areas of Aleppo, close to the Turkish border, calling for the departure of al-Qaeda, which opened fire and killed dozens of demonstrators.

Abu Osama al-Tunisi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Syria, posted the names of wanted FSA members on the doors of mosques in Dana and Dar Azza, near the Turkish border crossing of Bab al-Hawa. Al-Qaeda, which came from Iraq, has established itself in those two towns and killed all FSA members that it captured.

Tunisi ordered all FSA members in his area of control to declare their allegiance to ISI and to hand over their weapons. FSA intelligence has learned that ISI is sending weapons to Iraq. According to security sources, Iran has penetrated al-Qaeda since 2004 and has used it to further Iranian goals in Iraq, and today in Syria.

An Iraqi security official said to Azzaman that al-Qaeda is doing in Syria what it did in Iraq: killing anyone who refuses to surrender his weapons and swear allegiance. ISI has killed many fighters that were fighting US troops in Iraq. The source said that ISI is helping the Syrian regime, either with or without coordination, by killing armed oppositionists in Syria.

An FSA fighter, who goes by the name of Abu Wael al-Halabi and who escaped from an assassination attempt by Tunisi, said that al-Qaeda has taken over the areas that the FSA has liberated but refuses to go and fight on the fronts in Homs, Aleppo and Khan al-Asal. He said that al-Qaeda is using its money and arms to impose Islamic emirates, which end up serving the interests of President Bashar al-Assad, because those emirates fight the FSA.

The ISI raises al-Qaeda flags and sets up large outposts in the areas liberated by the FSA. A woman who was demonstrating in Raqqa said that those who join al-Qaeda are either losers in society or members of Assad’s Shabihha gangs who came to fight the FSA in the name of Islam. Jabhat al-Nusra and the ISI have a major dispute, but they have not yet clashed.

The FSA fighter said that Tunisi and his men have killed Fadi al-Qash, the leader of an FSA battalion, and two of his brothers. The fighter added that three of Tunisi’s fighters raped a 9-year-old child from Dana and that Tunisi is known for having poor morals: he doesn’t attend Friday prayers and he imprisons women and children. An Iraqi security source said that Tunisi has moved back and forth between Syria and Iraq and that years ago he has received training in a camp in Latakia by the Syrian regime’s intelligence service, with which he still has contacts.

Abu Wael al-Halabi said that Tunisi and his aides have declared that they are willing to kill anyone who doesn’t hand over his weapons and swear allegiance to them even before they kill President Assad’s fighters. Halabi added that Tunisi is either working for the regime or for an outside party that has nothing to do with Islam or Syria. Halabi has appealed to the FSA, its leader Salim Idriss, to Liwa al-Tawhid in Aleppo, and to Abdul Jaber al-Aqidi and Abdel Qader Saleh to launch a campaign against these “gangsters and perverts” and eliminate them before it’s too late.

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