Beirut, Sept. 20 (Reuters): Hundreds of rebels have pledged allegiance to al Qaida-affiliated forces in northern and eastern Syria, activists and Islamist sources said today.
Not only individual fighters, but entire units have joined the small but powerful al Qaida-linked groups — the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — in recent days, according to the sources inside Syria. “This is a sign the radical groups are still growing in power. This region could fall to the jihadists,” said an activist in the eastern town of Raqqa, who asked not to be identified.“We may see this become a trend.”
Clashes have been intensifying between Nusra or ISIL and the less effective but more moderate forces that make up the majority of opposition fighters, especially in opposition-held territory along Syria’s northern and eastern borders.
At least two entire rebel brigades are said to have joined the Nusra Front in the opposition-held province of Raqqa, which borders Turkey. One of the groups, the Raqqa Revolutionaries, has about 750 fighters in total, according to a source close to Islamist forces who spoke on condition of anonymity.