Former al-Qaeda affiliate wages war against other Syria rebels

Former al-Qaeda affiliate wages war against other Syria rebels

Al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Syria, Jabat Fateh al-Sham, has attacked positions of other rebel groups, sparking condemnation from opposition groups.
2 min read
25 January, 2017
JFS, previously known as the al-Nusra Front, is listed internationally as a "terrorist" group [Getty]
Al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Syria has raided the base of another rebel group, sparking condemnation from opposition groups.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [JFS] launched the attack against on bases belonging to the Jaish al-Mujahideen faction on Tuesday, seizing the positions and weapons, Jaish al-Mujahideen commander, Amin Malhis, told The New Arab on Tuesday.

"JFS fighters first surrounded our bases and prevented our men from leaving to get food or ammunition," Malhis said.

The commander said the two groups had also clashed around the town of al-Dana in Idlib province.

"Over the past three years of fighting the regime, we have lost more than 300 martyrs and now JFS is attacking us," Malhis added.

Rockets fired during the fighting killed five members of a family, most of them women and children, according to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR].

JFS, previously known as the al-Nusra Front, is listed internationally as a "terrorist" group, despite formally renouncing its affiliation with al-Qaeda in 2016.

But it has also been a key partner at times for rebel groups in Syria, and it leads a powerful alliance that controls all of Syria's Idlib province.

Despite the ties, tensions have occasionally flared between the extremist group and other rebel forces, which accuse Fateh al-Sham of seeking hegemony.

On Tuesday, Free Syrian Army [FSA] rebels also accused JFS of launching a surprise attack on their positions west of Aleppo.

JFS has been hit in recent weeks by a series of deadly air raids, most believed to have been carried out by the US-led coalition fighting extremists. SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said the group appeared to believe that local rebels were providing coordinates for the air raids.

Jaish al-Mujahideen along with the powerful Ahrar al-Sham faction, a close former ally of JFS in Idlib and other rebel groups have reportedly set up a joint command to fight JFS.

In a statement Ahrar al-Sham condemned JFS' recent attacks as "an assault against the revolution", warning the extremists that they will face "a full declaration of war" unless they stop.

The latest rebel infighting comes as Syria's government and rebel groups concluded fresh peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, building on a ceasefire in force since December 30.

JFS was excluded from the ceasefire and has rejected the negotiating process, creating fresh tensions with opposition groups.