Two weeks after al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) seized Azaz, a northwestern Syrian town along the Turkish border, the town is seeing another round of clashes after the AQI attacked a rival rebel faction, the Northern Storm.
The Northern Storm had fled to the outskirts of town after the initial takeover, and AQI had ordered them to surrender all their weapons by the end of Tuesday. They missed the deadline, sparking the attack.
A smaller and somewhat more moderate faction, Northern Storm’s influence is almost exclusively in the area around Azaz, which is strategically important because of its proximity to the Turkish border. The group was accused of kidnapping Shi’ite pilgrims who tried to cross through the region in 2012.
But while Northern Storm has more direct ties to the region than AQI, the locals in Azaz aren’t really rooting for either, with locals saying the border closure had made it harder for civilians to flee the civil war, and that they’d prefer both factions to leave the region and just leave them alone.