Home > Radical Islam, Wars and Rumors of War > Thousands Of ‘Free Syrian Army’ Fighters Joining Al-Qaeda Affiliated Rebels, ‘Entire Units Have Gone Over’

Thousands Of ‘Free Syrian Army’ Fighters Joining Al-Qaeda Affiliated Rebels, ‘Entire Units Have Gone Over’


But, surely, they’re still “reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population” right? …

By Mona Mahmood and Ian Black, The Guardian – “Syria’s main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaida that is emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Evidence of the growing strength of al-Nusra, gathered from Guardian interviews with FSA commanders across Syria, underlines the dilemma for the US, Britain and other governments as they ponder the question of arming anti-Assad rebels.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said that if negotiations went ahead between the Syrian government and the opposition – as the US and Russia proposed on Tuesday – ‘then hopefully [arming the Syrian rebels] would not be necessary’.

The agreement between Washington and Moscow creates a problem for the UK and France, which have proposed lifting or amending the EU arms embargo on Syria to help anti-Assad forces. The Foreign Office welcomed the agreement as a ‘potential step forward’but insisted: ‘Assad and his close associates have lost all legitimacy. They have no place in the future of Syria.’ Opposition leaders were sceptical about prospects for talks if Assad remained in power.

Illustrating their plight, FSA commanders say that entire units have gone over to al-Nusra while others have lost a quarter or more of their strength to them recently.

‘Fighters feel proud to join al-Nusra because that means power and influence,’ said Abu Ahmed, a former teacher from Deir Hafer who now commands an FSA brigade in the countryside near Aleppo. ‘Al-Nusra fighters rarely withdraw for shortage of ammunition or fighters and they leave their target only after liberating it,’ he added. “They compete to carry out martyrdom [suicide] operations.’

Abu Ahmed and others say the FSA has lost fighters to al-Nusra in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor and the Damascus region. Ala’a al-Basha, commander of the Sayyida Aisha brigade, warned the FSA chief of staff, General Salim Idriss, about the issue last month.” Read more.

Flashback: ‘Nowhere In Rebel-Controlled Syria Is There A Secular Fighting Force To Speak Of’ – ” In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce. Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.” Read more.

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