Militant leaders from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida gathered at a farm house in northern Syria last week and agreed on a plan to stop fighting each other and work together against their opponents, a high-level Syrian opposition official and a rebel commander have told The Associated Press.

Such an accord could present new difficulties for Washington’s strategy against the IS group. While warplanes from a U.S.-led coalition strike militants from the air, the Obama administration has counted on arming “moderate” rebel factions to push them back on the ground. Those rebels, already considered relatively weak and disorganized, would face far stronger opposition if the two heavy-hitting militant groups now are working together.

IS – the group that has seized nearly a third of Syria and Iraq with a campaign of brutality and beheadings this year – and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, have fought each other bitterly for more than a year to dominate the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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