Syrian Islamist Rebels Announce New Alliance Against al-Qaeda

In the meantime, reports also said that militants of Jondullah in the town of Sarmada in Idlib joined Ahrar al-Sham to fight against the al-Nusra Front.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham launched an attack on a number of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, threatening to deal a critical blow to the more moderate wing of the Syrian rebellion backed by Turkey and to derail Russian-backed peace talks.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has accused the rebels of conspiring against it at peace talks in Kazakhstan this week.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said that if the al-Qaida-linked group comes out on top in the fighting, the rebels would be more inclined to cooperate with calls for dissociating with its militants.

But the rebel groups, who had been reluctant to dissociate with al-Qaida-linked militants in part due to their fighting ability and the lack of discipline in others, already are reeling under the offensive.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda last July, is considered a terrorist group by the powers backing the ceasefire.

Mohammed Alloush head of a Syrian opposition delegation center speaks to the media after the talks on Syrian peace in Astana Kazakhstan Tuesday Jan. 24
Syrian Islamist Rebels Announce New Alliance Against al-Qaeda

JFS accused rebel factions of launching "unprovoked" attacks on its bases in Idlib, killing six of its fighters, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The alliance has complicated the support of Western countries for the armed opposition.

Meantime, a field commander of al-Nusra Front, namely Taha al-Khatib, along with 5 members of the terrorist group were killed in clashes with Soqour al-Sham militants in Jabal al-Zawiya region in Southern Idlib.

The armed opposition has for months criticised Fateh al-Sham, accusing it of tarnishing the image of the rebellion because of its ties to Al-Qaeda despite them cutting ties to the group a year ago.

"In the past hours a series of aggressions have targeted our blessed revolution, leading to total confrontation", Ahrar al-Sham said in a statement on Thursday.

Fatah al-Sham was excluded from the current and previous cease-fires, along with the Islamic State group, but until now the other rebel factions have been reluctant to break with the al-Qaida-linked group.

  • Joey Payne