RYAN LUCAS
huffingtonpost.com
January 6, 2013

Syrian rebels surrounded a compound held by al-Qaida-linked fighters and freed at least 50 people from a nearby prison Monday as clashes between rival factions in the country’s northern provinces spread to the largest city controlled by the opposition.

The rebel-on-rebel fighting in Raqqa — a stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — reflects a widening war within a war in Syria, this one against radical extremists. It also adds yet another layer of complexity to the broader Syrian conflict less than three weeks ahead of a planned international peace conference to try to broker a political solution to the civil war.

Support from the U.S. and its Western allies for the rebels has faded in the past year as al-Qaida-affiliated groups have risen to become one of the most dominant forces among the patchwork of opposition fighting factions.

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