Extremist infighting in northern Syria leaves nearly 70 dead
Infighting between formerly allied extremist groups in northern Syria has left nearly 70 fighters dead, a monitor said on Tuesday.
Clashes between former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) and the hardline Jund al-Aqsa faction erupted on Monday morning, after tensions over influence in the northwestern province of Idlib.
The fighting reflects the growing strained relations between different factions in Idlib province that once fought alongside either other against President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes erupted after Jund al-Aqsa carried out a suicide bomb attack against a JFS headquarters in Idlib, killing nine people.
The toll has now risen to 69 dead from both sides in heavy clashes as well as executions, with the fighting spreading to the neighbouring province of Hama.
"There are battles between warlords, it's a war for influence," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Jund al-Aqsa is reviled by most rebels in the region, and is designed a "terrorist group" by Washington.
Despite that, in October JFS announced it had taken Jund al-Aqsa under its wing, although clashes between the two groups erupted shortly afterwards.
In January, JFS also battled other rebel groups in Idlib during 10 days of clashes that killed dozens of fighters.
Idlib province is held almost entirely by opposition factions, and was captured by an alliance of fighters dubbed the Army of Conquest, led by JFS.
More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
The war has become a complex multi-front conflict, drawing in jihadist groups and international armies.
Agencies contributed to this report.