Thursday, July 26, 2012

'FSA commanders remain suspicious of al Qaedaesque groups in Syria, and jealous of the deep Gulf pockets that are funding them'

 'Al Qaeda flag in Syria'
".... But no matter the color, the implications were the same: that elements of al-Qaeda or the group’s supporters were present in this part of Syria.
There has been much speculation about whether Islamic radicals have gained a foothold in the chaotic battlefield that is Syria today. They have, albeit a small one. But as Karl Vick’s story in the Aug. 6 issue of TIME (subscription required) relates, should the conflict spiral out of hand, their role may grow exponentially.
In late January, the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl Ash-Sham, or the Support Front for the People of Syria, announced its formation and goal to bring down the regime of President Bashar Assad. In the months since, it has claimed responsibility for many of the larger, more spectacular bombing attacks on state security sites, including a double suicide car bombing in February targeting a security branch in Aleppo that left some 28 dead.....
......  “We don’t really like to accept people we don’t know. We don’t need foreigners,” Ibrahim said, although he admitted that there were some foreign jihadists in his group, from Kuwait, Libya and Kazakhstan....
In another town in northern Idlib, another jihadist — belonging to a different group — shared Ibrahim’s goal of an Islamic state. “Abu Zayd” is a 25-year-old Shari’a graduate who heads one of the founding brigades of Ahrar al-Sham, a group that adheres to the conservative Salafi interpretation of Sunni Islam......
.... Abu Zayd denied the presence of foreigners, even though TIME saw a man in the group’s compound who possessed strong Central Asian features. “Maybe his mother is,” Abu Zayd said unconvincingly. “We are not short of men to need foreigners.”
Regardless, foreigners are coming across into Syria. One prominent Syrian smuggler in a border town near Turkey said that he had ferried 17 Tunisians across the night before. It was a marked uptick in his business. He said he hadn’t seen many foreign fighters for about a month prior to the Tunisians. “Before that, every day there were new people, from Morocco, Libya and elsewhere,” he said. (In the course of several hours of waiting to cross back into Turkey, I saw at least a dozen Arabs who were clearly not Syrian and were identified as foreigners by the smuggler.)
It’s unclear how large the Jabhat and Ahrar are, given their shadowy natures, but it’s clear that their activities are becoming more public. Both participate in operations alongside regular FSA units, although some FSA commanders remain suspicious of them and jealous of the deep Gulf pockets that are funding them.....
Abu Mohammad, a local FSA commander with 25 men, said he dealt with the Jabhat because he needed their “explosives, bullets and other things … They have experience that I can benefit from, and I can also give them some help, information that benefits them.”
Abu Mohammad said he preferred the Jabhat to the “more showy” Ahrar. “If you ask [the Ahrar] for a device, they will give you a camera so you can film [the explosion], and they take credit for it,” he said. Still, he wasn’t really sold on the Jabhat either. “I am one of those people who is afraid of extremism,” he said. “I told [the Jabhat], It’s possible that perhaps one day we will stand armed against each other because of your activities. If they intend to do to us what happened in Iraq, it’s wrong.”..."

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