Facing Ultimatum, Al-Qaeda Faction Withdraws From Syria Towns

AQI Digging In Ahead of Nusra Offensive

by Jason Ditz, February 28, 2014

When al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra issued an ultimatum demanding rival al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) agree to mediation over the control of northern Syria, they gave AQI five days to acquiesce.

As the deadline nears, it is unsurprising that no deal was reached. Yet AQI is withdrawing from several of its more remote possessions unilaterally, including the valuable city of Azaz.

This appears to be in anticipation of Nusra’s offensive when the deadline passes, as AQI’s fighters are reinforcing positions around their primary possession in Syria, the Raqqa Province.

Both nominally al-Qaeda, Nusra has the official imprimatur of al-Qaeda’s parent group, which has disavowed AQI as too brutal for their tastes. AQI and Nusra have been fighting off and on for months, and while Nusra initially chased them from a few towns, AQI quickly retook them.

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