Iraq exports Islamist militants to Syria?
The main Islamist rebel groups in Aleppo on Nov. 19 rejected the newly formed Syrian opposition bloc, saying they want an Islamic state. "We, the fighting squads of Aleppo city and province, unanimously reject the conspiratorial project called the National Coalition and announce our consensus to establish an Islamic state" in Syria, a spokesman announced in an Internet video. "We reject any external coalitions or councils imposed on us at home from any party whatsoever." The unidentified speaker, sitting at the head of a long table with some 30 other men and a black Islamist flag on the wall, named 14 armed groups as signatories to the statement, including al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Tawhid. Ahrar al-Sham rejected the proclamation on its official webpage, however, saying that its leadership did not endorse the statement.
In northern Aleppo province, rebels took control of the army's Base 46 after a weeks-long siege. Six rebels were killed in clashes with Kurdish fighters and the head of the local Kurdish People's Assembly was shot dead in the town of Ras al-Ain, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The clashes erupted after a Kurdish demonstration demanding that all rebels not from Ras al-Ain leave after they took the town last week. The Kurdish fighters belonged to the People's Defence Units, armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in turn linked to Turkey's rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
In the mountainous region of Jabal al-Turkman, eight rebels and four soldiers were killed after insurgents attacked an army convoy en route to Kasab. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics, said at least 50 were killed nationwide on Nov. 19—25 rebels, 16 civilians and nine soldiers. This puts the death toll in more than 20 months of conflict at more than 39,000. (AFP, AP, Nov. 19)
The Arabic-language Buratha news agency reported late last month that 15 accused al-Qaeda members who fled a prison in Tikrit, Iraq, in September are now leading insurgent groups in Syria. Thre 15 were among the 150 prisoners awaiting execution at the facility, but they managed to escape following a car bomb explosion. Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the blast, which killed at least 15 Iraqi security personnel and led to the escape of dozens of prisoners. (Fars News Agency, Oct. 27)