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article imageJihadists cut down 150-year-old tree they say locals worshipped

By Rob Edens     Nov 25, 2013 in World
Idlib - The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been attracting a great deal of attention in the press as of late, and not for reasons the jihadist group would hope.
Two weeks ago, the al-Qaeda linked group admitted that it had beheaded a friendly insurgent fighter by mistake. Their latest blunder: cutting down a 150 year-old oak tree in the small town of Atme on Syria's border with Turkey.
On a jihadist Twitter account on Thursday, ISIL posted pictures of an insurgent wearing a black mask cutting down the tree with an electric saw. Islamists claimed that locals had been worshipping the tree.
Using a commonly used ISIL hash-tag, the unknown person wrote, " Thank God almighty, the tree... aged more than 150 years has been removed, after people were worshipping it instead of God."
People carry as they lower the bodies of the five civilian activists  who were killed during what ac...
People carry as they lower the bodies of the five civilian activists, who were killed during what activists said was an ambush, into their graves during their funeral in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus November 24, 2013. Fierce fighting to the east of Damascus has killed more than 160 people in the past two days as Syrian rebels struggle to break a months-long blockade by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad
With permission by Reuters / Bassam Khabieh
Rami Abdel Rahman, a spokesperson for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the tree had been cut down, also adding that the tree was located next to an ancient shrine in the town, to which the jihadist had also cut off access.
ISIL fighters took over the town on Thursday in what some called a major strategic blow for mainstream opposition fighters.
"Atme was oxygen for the (rebel) Free Syrian Army" fighting against Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad, Abu Leila, a local rebel, told the AFP. Atme had served, "as an entry point for everything from weapons to food, and as an exit point for the wounded."
ISIL already controls large swaths of northwestern Syria. Extremist elements of opposition to the Assad regime are increasingly clashing with more ideologically moderate home-grown fighters, who feel that groups like ISIL care more about ideology and less about the cause at hand.
More about Syria, Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, Bashar alAssad, Free Syrian Army
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