Islamic Front fighters take over Free Syrian Army bases near Turkish border


The Islamic Front, a recently formed Islamist alliance of several large groups that cooperate with al Qaeda in Syria, has driven Free Syrian Army forces out of bases and a warehouse at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing into Turkey. Late last month, the warehouse and its FSA commanders were taken over by the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham.

Following an all-night battle between the Islamic Front and FSA units, today Islamic Front fighters seized FSA arms depots containing weapons that had come into Syria through Turkey, according to the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said the Islamic Front fighters raised their own flag in place of the FSA's, after "asking" FSA personnel to leave, Reuters reported.

Agence France Presse notes that the capture of the FSA bases took place only four days after the Islamic Front declared that it rejected FSA command.

Last week, the Islamic Front, estimated at 45,000 fighters, published its charter, which sets out its goals of creating an Islamic state under sharia law. Although the charter does not mention al Qaeda or its two official Syrian branches, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the Islamic Front embraces jihad and calls the foreign fighters "our brothers." Taken as a whole, the charter indicates that the Islamic Front is willing to cooperate with both Al Nusrah and the ISIS; most of the Islamist groups that make up the Islamic Front have fought alongside the al Qaeda groups already. [See LWJ reports, Islamic Front endorses jihad, says 'the Muhajireen are our brothers,' and Analysis: Formation of Islamic Front in Syria benefits jihadist groups.]

Shortly after the publication of the charter, General Salim Idriss, head of the FSA's Supreme Military Council, congratulated the Islamic Front on its formation and pledged to cooperate with it. A few days earlier, on Nov. 24, an FSA spokesman had claimed that the Islamic Front answered to the Supreme Military Council; he also estimated that the Islamic Front controlled up to 60 percent of the rebel fighters in Syria, TIME reported.

A report in the BBC today states that al Qaeda-linked fighting units are becoming increasingly organized in the recruitment and transfer of foreign fighters through safe houses near the Turkish border into Syria and often out again back to their home countries.

A French jihadist who joined a brigade that consists of 8,000 fighters told the BBC that "there are thousands of us, literally from every corner of the world" and "we are all al-Qaeda." He also claimed that his brigade had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham.

In a further indication of the growing strength of the Islamist forces and corresponding weakness of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, a former rebel commander told the BBC that FSA fighters are now being targeted by jihadist forces and that he fled to Turkey after jihadists captured his unit and killed most of his men.



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READER COMMENTS: "Islamic Front fighters take over Free Syrian Army bases near Turkish border"

Posted by Birbal Dhar at December 7, 2013 2:47 PM ET:

I can safely say there isn't going to be a happy ending to this !

Posted by George Kominiak at December 7, 2013 4:30 PM ET:

'Just saw this one. It doesn't look good does it? I wonder why (except for Sites like this) the Syrian conflict receives very sparse coverage in the US Press.

Posted by Joseph at December 7, 2013 10:34 PM ET:

The situation is indeed grim and meddling will ultimately create more trouble. But (and certainly call me an optimist/naive, because I admit it sounds it) on this day (December 7th) I'm not going to sit here and say that there isn't hope for those who deserve it. Larger, more dangerous men have been handled.

Posted by agenresmibola at December 8, 2013 7:41 AM ET:

war is root of the problem, wanna stop the problem then stop the war.

why don't they fall back and try to build their own country. damn with peace agreement or whatever, that agreement smells politics.

start over then build each country in the name of people, child, your mother, your father, your beloved son and your beloved daughter. think if your beloved people dies in the name of country or country war dies in the name of peace.

Posted by Charles Martel at December 9, 2013 12:17 PM ET:

It's a good thing the US government properly vetted the recipients of all this aid so it wouldn't end up in the hands of any bad guys. But I'm sure they'll do a much better job with ObamaCare, right?

Posted by Matt Dubuque at December 9, 2013 10:48 PM ET:

As I stated here immediately after the sarin attacks in Syria, the Obama administration was OBVIOUSLY lying to the American people. Yet this was ignored by the Hunger Games media.

Now Pulitzer Prize winning Seymour Hersh confirms my point.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/2013/12/08/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Posted by David at December 11, 2013 3:51 PM ET:

@MattDubuque:
Wow, one hell of an article. But it convinces
me that the Obama administration took lemons
and made lemonade. There is no prospect
of getting Al Nusra to give up whatever CW capability
they've got, we'd have to send our guys in to take it from them, exposing them to possible sarin attack, possibly
never finding them, possibly re-directing their
attacks towards us instead of Assad, etc.

Instead, he did what was possible -- he managed
to get the whole Assad CW complex, the factories,
the missiles, the inventory, and get it destroyed.
That is still a big win for us.
The fraction of the inventory destroyed can't
fall into the wrong hands, or be used by Assad.

We still have to worry about Al Nusra, Al Qaeda,
and all those guys and what they've already
managed to acquire, but we have no good options
there. It'snot like, if we hadn't dismantled
Assad's CW arsenal, we would have been better able
to take out Nusra's.

Posted by Sara at December 21, 2013 8:43 PM ET:

I can safely say there isn't going to be a happy ending to this !