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Al Qaeda-Linked Rebel Infighting Begins in Syria

Local infighting between Islamist rebel factions – and between the jihadists and the more moderate opposition forces – has begun in Syria.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 7/7/2013, 9:15 AM

Syrian rebels patrol in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur
Syrian rebels patrol in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur
AFP photo

Local infighting between Islamist rebel factions – and between the jihadists and the more moderate opposition forces – has begun in Syria.

The violence is taking place despite the fact that the civil war between the opposition fighters and loyalists defending President Bashar al-Assad has not yet ended.

But the war may in fact wind down with this week’s overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi giving strength to Assad’s forces.
    
The Muslim Brotherhood has long provided support to the Syrian radical Islamist cause -- part of the reason for the fragmentation that prevented the opposition from coalescing into a reasonably organized force backed by a unified government-in-exile, one the West was able to support.

Rebel forces in Syria, fragmented as they were before Morsi’s fall, are now fighting each other in earnest. A merger formed between the global Al Qaeda-backed Islamic State of Iraq, and al-Sham (ISIS) has been working to swallow northern Syrian real estate over the past year.

It also is becoming increasingly clear that ISIS has swallowed the local Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front), which once was the largest faction in the Islamist Front for the Liberation of Syria – the 13-member rebel coalition that broke away from the main opposition force.

ISIS has also been imposing its extremist Shari’a rule over villagers who welcome its rebel forces – including foreign Al Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan and Iraq – not realizing what such infiltration will bring.

On Friday, dozens were killed in internecine violence in the town of al-Dana near the Turkish border, local sources said.

According to a report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the heads a commander and his brother from the local Islam Battalion were found next to a trash can in the main square. Their bodies were found elsewhere.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed since the war began in March 2011 with a defiant anti-government scrawl by a teen on a wall in Dera'a, inspired back then by the region-wide Arab Spring uprisings.