Islamist faction Jund al-Aqsa, backed by some of the more militant portions of the Free Syrian Army, today attacked and captured the town of Murak, in the northern part of Syria’s Hama Province. This was the last government-held town on the highway between Hama and Aleppo.
Syrian officials say fighting is still ongoing outside of the town, but the reports are that dozens of casualties were inflicted on the military forces guarding the town in a sudden offensive. The loss comes in spite of renewed focus on the Hama Province, with Syria’s military getting backing from Russian warplanes in the area.
Jund al-Aqsa was originally part of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, but split with them last year in a dispute over their feud with ISIS. Despite not being officially part of Nusra anymore, they remained part of the Nusra-dominated Idlib coalition until just weeks ago, when they formally left, again citing their objection to calls to fight ISIS.
The Syrian military’s recent offensives in the area were centered on controlling the highways leading into Aleppo, once the financial and industrial capital of the nation, though in ruins after years of fighting. Several different factions continue to hold the area surrounding Aleppo, and the Syrian military’s efforts seem to be going poorly indeed.
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