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Al-Nusra's 'chaotic' withdrawal in Syria

Al-Nusra Front fighters have started to withdraw from planned "safe zone" territories [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 August, 2015

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Al-Nusra Front says it has quit frontline positions against Islamic State and ceded them to other rebels, leaving an area of northern Syria where Turkey wants a buffer zone.

Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front have announced a withdrawal from its territories in northern Syria. 

Early reports suggest that its opponent, the Islamic State group, have taken advantage of al-Nusra's "chaotic" handover of power to rebel groups and captured new territories.

An extremist website posted photographs of rebel fighters from the Levant Front replacing al-Nusra militants in the northern village of al-Dahla.

The announcement came after reports from al-Araby al-Jadeed that al-Nusra Front fighters had started to withdraw outposts close to the Turkish border in preparation for the establishment of an anti-IS safe zone in the north of the country.

Turkey has conducted air raids against Islamic State group and Kurdish militia targets in Syria and Iraq.

It is said to have formulated an anti-IS buffer area in northern Syria, in collaboration with the rebel Free Syrian Army group. The US have also been providing air cover for rebel groups in the area.

Sharia law

However, al-Nusra, which has been at the forefront of the war against IS and the Syrian regime, said they want not participate in the coalition as it contravened "Sharia law".

"The Turkish government and the international coalition have decided to lead and direct the battle according to their own interests and priorities," al-Nusra said in a statement, reported by Lebanese news outlet Now Media.

"[Turkey will provide] air and artillery cover for certain Syrian opposition factions participating in that coalition as ground forces... We therefore announce our withdrawal from all the watch posts against the kharijites [IS] north of Aleppo."

The group said that they would continue the fight against their extremist counterparts which rules over half of Syria and huge swathes of northern and western Iraq.

There are questions about the effectiveness of the rebel fighters. Most breakthroughts by opposition groups against IS and the regime have only been won in coordination with al-Nusra Front.

Following the handover of Umm Hosh from al-Nusra to rebel hands, IS launched an offensive to take the territory.

They forced an FSA retreat with the Liwa al-Tawhid first suffering "dozens dead" in a fight with IS militants, NOW reported.

"[The handover] caused laxness and chaos [to prevail], so they attacked the village of Umm Housh with their car bombs and took control," Saleh al-Zain, a Levant Front commander told ARA news.

Al-Nusra have been targetted by US-led anti-IS coalition air strikes. Although the group has collaborated with a variety of rebel organisations - including the FSA - they have made their opposition to the US clear.

At the end of July, al-Nusra killed, wounded or captured dozens of fighters from the FSA-affiliated Division 30, who were trained by the US army just days earlier.

 

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