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article imageOp-Ed: Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels clash with Kurds and other rebels

By Ken Hanly     Dec 6, 2013 in World
Damascus - The Syrian Observatory for Human Right claims that Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) members have kidnapped over 50 Kurdish civilians after fighting against two Kurdish towns. The AQI is often called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Sham (ISIL or ISIS).
Kurds have managed to drive Jihadist rebels from most of the northeastern region along the Iraq border but in Aleppo province, where Islamist radicals control much of the countryside, Kurdish villages are under constant threat.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said: "In the past three days, ISIL has kidnapped at least 51 Kurds in the towns of Minbej and Jarablus." The group based in the UK said that there were nine children and a woman among those kidnapped. Back in July the ISIL kidnapped 200 Kurds from the same province and only a few have been released as yet. The radicals are besieging Kurd areas in the Aleppo area in response to being driven out of other areas further east by Kurdish forces. The Kurds are attempting to set up a provisional government in areas that they control. The Assad regime has not pressed the battle against the Kurds but has concentrated on fighting other rebel groups in other areas.
The ISIL is itself taking over areas already held by other rebel groups along the northern border of Syria with Turkey. In the town of Temanin they simply drove through town with their pickups and took over. A sniper from a rival unit was summarily beheaded and the head displayed in the main square.
A Free Syrian Army(FSA) report prepared for the US State Department said the ISIL has a basic force of 5,500 f oreign fighters that includes 250 Chechens in the Aleppo area and also has recruited 17,000 locally. The local recruits are poor Sunnis who have been at the forefront of protests and now the battle against the Assad regime. While the western press often stresses the excessive brutality of the Al-Qaeda linked jihadists, they ignore the fact that the fighters are often more effective than the FSA and also do try to help the locals by providing basic services rather than looting as some of the other rebel groups do. It is not just threats of force that leads to locals choosing the side of the radical jihadists nor their ideology.
The increasing power of Al-Qaeda linked groups worries both the west and even the United Arab Emirates(UAE). The upcoming peace conference Geneva 2 may hope to form an alliance of moderate rebels and Assad forces against radical Islamists if a transition government can be formed. The UAE recently held a meeting with tribes in the rebel held oil producing regions in an attempt to gauge the desire to form something akin to the Sahwa movement in Iraq that was bankrolled by the US to fight against Al Qaeda groups. The meeting showed little interest in the project apparently. The Al Qaeda-linked ISIL does not mess with the tribal structures according to a source and the tribal leaders have seen that those who oppose the ISIL get their heads chopped off. The status quo is preferable for both sides.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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