A late Friday offensive by rival rebel factions took al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) fighters by surprise in northwest Syria, and within short order they were ousted from dozens of bases in the area, putting the group on its heels for the first time in quite awhile in Syria.
It wasn’t to last, however, as AQI quickly recovered, holding off rival attempts against their key strongholds, and dispatching reinforcements from Raqqa. At least 60 people have been killed overall, but only nine AQI fighters were among them.
Exactly how united the rival rebels are remains unclear, and there remains considerable speculation that the secularists and the Islamic Front simply took the opportunity given them by protesters to try to claim some territory from AQI.
Though the weekend fighting unseating AQI from some areas in Idlib Province, the bulk of their territorial possessions seem unaffected, and the battle-hardened foreign fighters on their side will likely be difficult to oust by the other factions.