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NOW

Syria Islamist factions
clash over ISIS memorial

Ahrar al-Sham forces Jund al-Aqsa to end a memorial service for a high-ranking ISIS commander.

Ahrar al-Sham fighters. (image via Eldorar.com)

BEIRUT – The powerful Ahrar al-Sham rebel group clashed with the Al-Qaeda-linked Jund al-Aqsa in an Idlib town after the latter group attempted to commemorate the death of a high ranking ISIS official.

 

Tension has gripped Idlib’s Sarmin following an exchange of gunfire between members of the two insurgent factions, local sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday morning.

 

The monitoring NGO explained that the Thursday evening firefight erupted after Jund al-Aqsa attempted to set-up a mourning tent for Hassan Abboud, a prominent Syrian jihadist who hailed from the small Sunni-populated town.

 

A pro-rebel outlet also covered the latest instance of rebel infighting, reporting that Ahrar al-Sham forced Jund al-Aqsa to end its memorial for Abboud, who reportedly commanded ISIS assassins targeting rebels in northwest Syria.

 

El-Dorar’s correspondent said that Ahrar al-Sham surrounded Sarmin and forced Jund al-Aqsa to end the mourning ceremony, despite the latter’s attempts to continue it.

 

“The situation remains tense and the siege on the town continues,” the correspondent added.

 

Another pro-rebel outlet went into more details on the matter, saying that Ahrar al-Sham fighters entered the condolence tent and smashed furniture inside of it, bringing the ceremony to an end.

 

Afterward, Jund al-Aqsa members set-up checkpoints across Sarmin, stopping residents in a bid to arrest Ahrar al-Sham members present in the Idlib town, a source to Enab Baladi. 

 

Supporters of both groups lobbed accusations against each other on Twitter, with Jund al-Aqsa followers accusing Ahrar al-Sham’s move of being “inhuman,” while Ahrar fans saying the commemoration of a “Khawarij”—a pejorative term for an ISIS member—was an “insult to the blood of martyrs.”

 

Jund al-Aqsa has been beset by internal divisions over its ties with ISIS. The extremist faction left the Army of Conquest coalition—which Ahrar al-Sham is a member of—over its refusal to fight ISIS. In recent weeks, however, a number of top Jund al-Aqsa officials have quit the group and joined the Al-Nusra Front, an avowed enemy of ISIS.

 

Reports emerged Wednesday that Abboud had died of wounds suffered while fighting against the regime in the Khanasser region southeast of Aleppo.

 

He had a reputation for fighting on the front-lines despite being a double amputee. Abboud defected to ISIS in July 2014 alongside his Liwaa Dawood faction, which played a key role in the seizure of the Taftanaz Air Base in early 2013.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. 

Ahrar al-Sham fighters. (image via Eldorar.com)

The situation remains tense and the siege on the town continues.

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