TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Clashes between Syrian rebels and their rivals from an al-Qaeda-linked faction have spread from the country’s opposition-held areas in the north to a key eastern city, activists said.
Monday’s rebel-on-rebel fighting in the eastern city of Raqqa, a long-time bastion of an al-Qaeda-linked group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), reflects a widening war within a war in Syria, as the Free Syrian Army tries to quell more hardline elements of the opposition.
The recent infighting has been the most serious since armed groups initially rose to try overthrow the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The clashes erupted in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib on Friday after residents there accused ISIL fighters of killing a popular doctor, Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday.
An activist group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has estimated that at least 100 fighters on both sides have been killed since Friday.
ISIL is dominated by foreign fighters who initially fanned into Syria from neighbouring Iraq in March and set up camp in areas rebels had wrested from Assad-loyal forces, imposing a deeply conservative interpretation of Islamic law in the process.
Popular resentment towards the group from civilians has been building as the months progress and ISIL fighters began imprisoning citizens for perceived transgressions against Islam.
The rebels, meanwhile, have accused ISIL of overtaking their areas, seizing their weapons and detaining their fighters.
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