AFP reports: A newly formed Syrian rebel alliance has declared war on the powerful Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and joined other opposition groups in battling the extremists.
“We, the Army of the Mujahideen, pledge to defend ourselves and our honor, wealth and lands, and to fight ISIS, which has violated the rule of God, until it announces its dissolution,” said the new alliance of eight groups, in a statement published on Facebook Friday.
The alliance demanded that ISIS fighters either join the ranks of other rebel groups “or hand over their weapons and leave Syria.”
The alliance accused ISIS of “spreading strife and insecurity… in liberated [rebel] areas, spilling the blood of fighters and wrongly accusing them of heresy, and expelling them and their families from areas they have paid heavily to free” from Assad’s regime.
The Army of Mujahideen also accused ISIS of theft and looting, and of “kidnapping, killing and torturing [rebel] commanders and activists,” echoing repeated complaints among opposition ranks against the Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The newly formed group is made up of eight small to medium-sized brigades, and it was not immediately clear how many fighters it commanded.
But as the statement was issued it fought fierce clashes against ISIS in the Aleppo and Idlib provinces of northern Syria.
The Islamic Front, the largest rebel alliance, which is made up of several powerful Islamist groups, and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, another major rebel bloc, also battled ISIS on Friday.
Joshua Landis adds: The Syrian opposition Coalition claims that ISIS is a regime inspired organization, designed to undermine the principles of the revolution and pervert the meaning of Islam. Chants of “Assad and D`ASH are one” have been repeated at many recent demonstrations against ISIS. (DA`ASH is the acronym in Arabic for ISIS or Dawla al-Islamiyya fi-l `Iraq wa Sham). The Coalition told AP that:
The Syrian National Coalition believes that ISIS is closely linked to the terrorist regime and serves the interests of the clique of President Bashar Al-Assad…. The murder of Syrians by this group leaves no doubt about the intentions behind their creation, their objectives, and the agendas they service, which is confirmed by the nature of their terrorist actions that are hostile to the Syrian revolution.
Hassan Aboud of the Islamic Front and head of its political bureau blamed ISIS for bringing this war on itself. Hassan Aboud explained in an interview with aljazerra:
All this fighting [between rebel forces] will only weaken the revolution and help the regime. We, in the Islamic Front, did not take the decision to fight ISIS, but whoever did it had his reasons because of the way ISIS treats other groups. ISIS denies reality, refusing to recognize that it is simply another group. It refuses to go to independent courts; it attacked many other groups, stole their weapons, occupied their headquarters, and arbitrarily apprehended numerous activists, journalists and rebels. It has been torturing its prisoners. These transgressions accumulated, and people got fed up with ISIS. Some of those people have attacked ISIS’s positions, but ISIS was first to attack in other places, bringing this on itself.