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Nusra Front breaks up anti-regime protest in Idlib

The Al-Qaeda affiliate has increasingly cracked down on opposition demonstrations in areas under their control

Nusra Front militants break up a protest in Idlib

A pro-opposition demonstration in Idlib province was disrupted Friday by members of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front, in a scene that has become increasingly common in territory controlled by the militant group.

 

Anti-regime demonstrators, waving the iconic green, white and black tricolor flag of the Syrian revolution, gathered in the Idlib city of Maarrat al-Numaan to rally against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to video footage and an unnamed Syrian activist’s testimony.

 

 

لحظة إقتحام جبهة النصرة المظاهرة السلمية التي نادت في إسقاط النظام .. #معرة_النعمان ليست بخير ..

Posted by Jawdat Malas on Friday, March 11, 2016

 

Multiple videos uploaded online showed a group of masked Nusra Front members arriving on motorcycles to the site of the demonstration, where around 200 people were chanting, “You’re going down, Oh Bashar.” The Nusra members began waving their group’s trademark black-and-white flags and chanting in support of an Islamic caliphate, according to the activist, who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety.

 

The videos then show the Nusra members making their way through the crowd, as the demonstrator holding the microphone begins repeating, “One, one, one, the Syrian people are one!” A scuffle then broke out, during which the Nusra partisans appeared to unsuccessfully attempt to confiscate the microphone, only to walk away moments later amid the resumption of the same chant.

 

According to the activist, however, the Nusra members eventually succeeded in dispersing the demonstration, which was held partly to demand the release of an activist, Hossam Hozbor. They reportedly continued to patrol the streets thereafter to prevent the crowd regathering.

 

Since a ‘cessation of hostilities’ went into effect across Syria on February 27, protesters have used the relative lull in fighting to resume demonstrations against the Syrian regime.

 

During the demonstrations, residents have also increasingly expressed their opposition to the presence of the Nusra Front and their domineering form of governance.  

 

Last month, residents of the northwestern Syrian town of Atareb rallied against Nusra Front, calling on the group to leave the town, one year after the Al-Qaeda affiliate routed US-backed rebels who were based there.

 

Nusra Front also prevented protesters from gathering in Idlib city’s main square on Monday, threatening to shoot protesters if they did not disperse.

 

Idlib was captured in March 2015 by a coalition of rebel groups led by Nusra front and its Islmaist ally, Ahrar a-Sham.

 

Now controlling large parts of Idlib province, the group has attempted to stomp out opposition to the Islamist group’s rule among supporters of the more moderate opposition.

 

In one notorious incident in January, Nusra Front fighters raided an independent radio station broadcasting from Idlib's Kafranbel and briefly detained a prominent Syrian activist, Raed Fares, for "breaching Sharia" in a post on his Facebook account.

Nusra Front militants break up a protest in Idlib's Maarat al-Numaan. (Hani al-Lahlah)

The videos then show the Nusra members making their way through the crowd, as the demonstrator holding the microphone begins repeating, 'One, one, one, the Syrian people are one!'