Sept. 19, 2013
A Syrian town on the border with Turkey has been captured from the Free Syrian Army—not by forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but by Islamist rebels backed by al-Qaeda. The violent takeover of the town has laid bare the deep rifts that plague the movement to oust Assad.
According to reports from the BBC, the fighting in Azaz, a town just south of the Turkish border and north of Aleppo, broke out after a wounded fighter from the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (known as ISIS) was filmed at a field clinic by a group of German doctors or someone connected to their work for a production to be used in fundraising back home. The fighter demanded the film be handed over, accusing the man filming him of being a journalist—a dangerous charge in Syria, where Islamist rebels often deem western journalists to be spies, according to the BBC.
The fighter called for help and a confrontation ensued between ISIS and the Free Syrian Army fighters guarding the clinic. Skirmishes between the two rebel factions have reportedly not been uncommon, and the argument over film erupted into a full-scale battle for control of a key strategic outpost. Details on the number of casualties are scant but the Associated Press says hundreds have been killed on both sides in what it calls “a war within a war in northern and eastern parts of Syria.”