Rival al-Qaeda-linked groups fortifying in Syria with mix of pragmatism and militancy

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Shortly before its operatives killed 14 Iraqi Shiite children in a school bombing this month, the group once known as al-Qaeda in Iraq sent guerrillas into northern Syrian villages with orders to reopen local Sunni classrooms. In a series of early fall visits, the militants handed out religious textbooks along with backpacks bearing the group’s new name: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

A four-hour drive to the east, a rival al-Qaeda faction called ­Jabhat al-Nusra was busy setting up a jobs program in Ash-
Shaddadi, a desert town it has held since February. The Islamists restarted production at an oil field that had been idled by fighting, and they fired up the town’s natural gas plant, now a source of income for Ash-Shaddadi and its new rulers.

The two rebel groups, with their distinct lineages to the terrorist network founded by Osama bin Laden, have become the focus of Western fears that jihadist influences within Syria’s rebel movement are rising. Two and a half years after the conflict in the country started, Islamists are carving out fiefdoms and showing signs of digging in...

No comments:

Post a Comment