Reports in the Turkish media cite sources within their security system as saying the Free Syrian Army’s Islamist-leaning faction, the al-Qaeda-allied Syria Revolutionaries Front (SRF), has abandoned the northern city of Aleppo in the face of a Syrian military offensive, and that the faction’s leader Jamaal Marouf, has fled to Turkey to be protected by the Erdogan government.
The report claims some 14,000 SRF fighters were in Aleppo, which would be virtually the entire group. They had previously operated out of northern Homs and southern Idlib, where they helped al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front seize territory from the military.
The group’s nominal association with the Free Syrian Army was used as a major source of claims that early Russian airstrikes against Nusra-affiliated targets were actually targeting the FSA in general, which is overwhelmingly secular.
The group had interests in Aleppo, but it is unclear how, after being routed from Homs, they managed to relocate their entire operation into the contested city. The significant number of fighters apparently did not make a big difference, either in the multi-year stalemate in Aleppo when they arrived or in slowing he ongoing Syrian offensive aimed at recovering the city.
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