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US strikes Nusra Front,
Ahrar al-Sham

Washington expanded its aerial campaign to target non-ISIS groups fighting US-backed rebels in northern Syria.

A video purportedly shows the wreckage of the car of an Al-Nusra Front commander. (YouTube)
Haram damage. (Kafar Takharim Coordination Committee Facebook)
A picture purportedly shows damage caused by a US airstrike in Haram. (Kafar Takharim Coordination Committee Facebook)

BEIRUT – The US struck Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham targets in northern Syria, expanding its military campaign to include the two Islamist groups advancing against Washington-backed rebels in the area.

 

“Coalition warplanes carried out a number of strikes overnight Wednesday, targeting a vehicle belonging to Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch the Al-Nusra Front in the town of Sarmada near the Syrian-Turkish border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

 

A video uploaded to YouTube by the opposition Step News Agency purportedly shows the fiery wreckage of a vehicle belonging to an Al-Nusra Front commander in Samarda.

 

“Roughly ten kilometers to the east, an Al-Nusra Front base in the town of Haram was also targeted with initial information suggesting human losses, including the death of two children as well as a number of injuries,” the SOHR also reported.

 

Eyewitnesses in Kafar Takharim, a town seven kilometers south of Haram, said that “six coalition planes [bombed] the center of the border town, causing huge damage to residential buildings and shops near the town’s jail,” according to an activist Facebook page.

 

The Al-Nusra Front condemned the strike on Haram and released pictures purportedly showing dead civilians being pulled out from under rubble.

 

“The strikes of the Arab-Crusader coalition do not differentiate between [fighters] and civilians,” the group said on its Twitter account.

 

Meanwhile, the SOHR reported that US strikes “also targeted for the first time a base belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham movement in the Babsaqa area near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey.”

 

Ahrar al-Sham is an avowed enemy of the Islamic State (ISIS), which killed most of the former group's leadership in a massive suicide attack in Idlib on September 27.

 

The Al-Nusra Front, backed by Ahrar al-Sham, have pressed a sweeping offensive in the Idlib region up to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, prompting Free Syrian Army-affiliated rebels in the region to call for US assistance.

 

The Islamist groups dealt a serious blow to the Washington-backed Hazzm Movement over the weekend, with the BBC reporting that Al-Nusra seized a large number of US-supplied weapons from the group. 

 

The Hazzm Movement in April received wire-guided anti-tank missiles and has been described by the influential Washington Institute as one of the top functioning moderate rebel groups.

 

Al-Nusra Front also attacked the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, seizing its main base in Idlib’s Deir Sonbol amid reports that a number of fighters in the group had defected to Al-Nusra, the SOHR reported.

 

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Obama administration was weighing an expansion of its campaign to target Al-Nusra Front in northern Syria as US-backed rebels in the region suffered losses. 

 

“We want to help the opposition, we want to keep the border crossings open, and we’re looking a lot of things,” an administration official told the daily on condition of anonymity.

 

On the first day of the aerial campaign, the US hit Al-Nusra bases outside Idlib belonging to the Khorasan Group, an Al-Qaeda cell linked to Nusra. Washington had touted it stopped a terror attack in progress, and played down links between Khorasan and Nusra.

 

The US-led offensive against ISIS in Syria plans to augment airstrikes with the training and equipping of moderate rebels to fight the jihadists.

A video purportedly shows the wreckage of the car of an Al-Nusra Front commander. (YouTube)

Six coalition planes [bombed] the center of the border town, causing huge damage to residential buildings and shops near the town’s jail.