Islamist Rebels Withdrawing En Masse from Northern Syria

Fighters 'Headed to Mali' According to Reports

by Jason Ditz, February 26, 2013

According to the rebel-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, hundreds of foreign rebels have been fleeing from the Idlib Province in Northwestern Syria through Turkey, claiming they are planning to “join jihadists in Mali.”

The reports come amid intense fighting in the Idlib Province, and suggest that while foreign Islamist fighters were eager to flock to Syria to fight the Alawite President Assad, they don’t have any particular ties to the nation and are willing to ditch that civil war for a more promising fight.

This could prove to be extremely bad news for the French troops invading Mali, as if these reports prove true they will end up facing Islamist troops that the French government was openly bankrolling, and who likely have far more fighting experience against modern military forces than the existing insurgency.

Whether this will significantly change the situation on the ground in Syria is unclear, as the overall size of the rebels there is not well understood, nor is it clear if the Syrian military will attempt to retake Idlib Province in the face of the pullout or just focus their attention elsewhere.

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