34 al-Qaeda Fighters Executed by Rival Syrian Rebels

Land, Not Ideology, Driving the 'War Within a War'

Rebel infighting that has spanned several provinces across northern Syria is growing uglier all the time, with the latest  reports that 34 members of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its allied faction Jund al-Aqsa were captured by rival rebels and summarily executed.

According to the rebel-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the 34 fighters killed were separated from other captured fighters linked to the groups, and only the foreign fighters were killed.

Rebel factions, particularly the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have played up the idea that the foreign-dominated AQI is secretly in league with the Assad government, though in reality they have been among the most aggressive factions targeting Assad territory.

Far from the ideological split its portrayed as by the FSA, the rebel “war within a war” seems much more driven by a desire to take some of AQI’s territory away from them, and reestablish their secular faction as a viable part of the rebellion at a time when many see them drifting toward irrelevance.

AQI’s treatment of locals has fueled protests in those territories, and the FSA and other blocs are using that as a justification to attack, though they have largely avoided the territories that saw the biggest protests, since they were also those with the most AQI fighters, and have focused on outlying territories in Idlib which were easy pickings and far from reinforcements.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.