Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate warns it will shoot protesters

Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate warns it will shoot protesters
A protest in Idlib province has been violently broken up by al-Nusra Front members, who threatened to use live rounds against protesters the next time they took to the street.
2 min read
08 March, 2016
Hundreds of anti-regime protests took place across Syria last week [Anadolu]

Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate have threatened to fire on protesters, as a wave secular demonstrations surge through rebel territories.

Nusra fighters stormed an anti-regime protest in Idlib province on Monday, beating protesters, smashing cameras and destroying the green-black-white pre-Baathist Syrian flag.

The al-Qaeda affiliate warned protesters the next time they demonstrated that crowds would be dispersed with bullets.

Fighters from the quietist Jihadi movement Jund al-Aqsa also beat protesters. Revolutionary flags were replaced with black flags associated with jihadi movements.

Activists in Idlib have demanded an apology by Jaish al-Fatah rebel coalition which controls the province and are also thought to have played a hand in suppressing the protests.

Aleppo and Idlib-based Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham issued a statement condemning the breaking up of demonstrations. Nusra's leadership is also thought to have shown signs of regret.

It comes as hundreds of spontaneous anti-regime protests spread across the Syrian rebel territories over the past week - from Aleppo to Daraa - since a ceasefire came into force.

In some cases, they also rejected extremism and are thought to be generally sympathetic towards the moderate Free Syrian Army groups.

Russian, regime and Kurdish forces have all been accused of breaking the truce, but bombings of rebel towns and cities are markedly down from last month.

The relative quiet has allowed protesters to pour onto the streets as they did in 2011.

The scenes have been reminiscent of the very first anti-regime protests which erupted five years ago. These were led by political activists, but when regime forces fired on them were protected by defected soldiers. These men would become the nucleus of the Free Syrian Army.

Today's protests are said to be still led by the same opposition campaigners.

However, many have been targets of Nusra, who have accused them of spreading "secular concepts" such as democracy and music.