In the ongoing civil war in Syria, groups linked to Al-Qa'idah, who are influential particularly in the north of the country, are increasing their superiority over the units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Northern Storm Brigade, affiliated with the FSA, has been defeated by the ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], which is the Iraq and Syria arm of Al-Qa'idah. The Bab al-Salam border crossing has gone into the control of a group outside of the FSA.
In the Syrian city of Aleppo, clashes have escalated between the groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is supported by the West and Turkey, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is the Syrian arm of the Al-Qa'idah terrorist organization. In fighting between the FSA groups the Ababil Brigade and the Northern Storm Brigade (NSB), on the one hand, and the ISIS on the other, over 100 people have lost their lives in the past three days. ISIS units attacked the military posts and centres held by the NSB at Azaz, seven kilometres from the Oncupinar border crossing. All the points that were attacked came under the control of the ISIS. Units affiliated with the NSB, which dispersed following the attack, sought refuge in nearby villages or else, by crossing the border along with other opposition units, in Turkey.
Eleven Lebanese Shi'is abducted in May of last year have been in the hands of the NSB. Of the abducted Lebanese, two had been freed as a result of efforts by Turkey. A group named the Pilgrims of Imam Reza, who wanted the other 9 Lebanese to be released as well, abducted 2 Turkish pilots in Beirut 72 days ago. It was related that, because of attacks by Al-Qa'idah, the nine Lebanese in the group's hands were taken to rural areas, but that it was finally becoming physically difficult to hide the prisoners. Syrian opposition sources speaking to Zaman have said that the Lebanese could be exchanged for Turkish pilots Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca, as well as some Syrian convicts in prisons. The FSA claims that the Lebanese Shi'is in its hands are not civilians, but had come to Syria in order to fight.
Meanwhile, it has been learned that fleeing fighters of the NSB have begun to assemble men with announcements they have been making in the villages of Aleppo. It is being said that, if arms support and sufficient men can be found, the group could again go on the offensive against the ISIS. The Al-Qa'idah-affiliated ISIS is also in the position of being the most influential group in Aleppo, Idlib, and a major portion of the areas to the north of Latakia, as well as in Raqqa, along the Turkish border.
Control of Border Gate No Longer in Hands of FSA
As a result of the defeat of the NSB, control of the Bab al-Salam border crossing, which is just across from the Oncupinar border crossing, passed completely into the control of the group known as the Liwa al-Tawhid. The NSB and the Liwa al-Tawhid previously had jointly controlled the border gate. This group, which has become an armed fighting force of almost 10,000 men, last month left the National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and joined a new grouping named the "Syrian Islamic Liberation Front." Due to Azaz's having passed into the hands of the ISIS, Turkey has kept the Oncupinar border gate closed for the past month.
The pro-Al-Qa'idah groups, in people's meetings they have been holding and in sermons in mosques they have captured, characterize the FSA groups as "infidel groups that cooperate with the West." They also call for support from the public in order to expel the FSA from the region as soon as possible. They likewise accuse neighbouring Islamic countries such as Turkey and Jordan of acting together with the "infidels."
The pro-Al-Qa'idah groups, which are located in the border regions in particular, are also fighting against FSA units in the towns of Dayr al-Zor and Dara, which are in the eastern and southern regions of the country. According to opposition commanders in the region, the relatives of people executed for being fighters from pro-regime militias, and of families that support the [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Asad regime, are in particular joining the ISIS units. In the country, where the economic situation is extremely bad, the fact that the pro-Al-Qa'idah ISIS pays its militants a monthly salary of 300 dollars increases recruitment into these units. The oil wells in Dayr al-Zor and Raqqa are also in the hands of the ISIS.
In the middle of last month, 13 groups, having thousands of members and including militarily powerful groups such as the Ahrar al-Sham, the Liwa al-Tawhid, and the Islamic Brigade, joined together under the name of the "Islamic Front." While this union formed a counterbalancing element in the armed struggle against the ISIS, it was also assessed as a blow against the FSA.Source: Zaman website