The Associated Press reports: Members of an al-Qaida-breakaway group withdrew Friday from parts of the northern province of Aleppo, ahead of a Saturday deadline issued by another rebel group that could spark more infighting, opposition activists said.
Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant evacuated from several towns north of Aleppo, including Azaz near the Turkish border, Aleppo-based activists who go by the names of Ibrahim Saeed and Abu Raed said. Rival fighters moved in shortly after, the activists and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The pullout came three days after the leader of a powerful al-Qaida-linked group in Syria gave the Islamic State a five-day ultimatum to accept mediation by leading clerics to end infighting or be “expelled” from the region.
The ultimatum, announced in an audio recording by the leader of the Nusra Front, aims to end two months of deadly violence between the Islamic State and other Islamic factions that activists say has killed more than 3,000 people. The infighting is undermining the opposition fighters’ wider struggle against President Bashar Assad’s government.
There has been no official reaction from the Islamic State so far but they most likely will reject the ultimatum, possibly leading to more deadly battles in the coming days.
Saeed said Islamic State fighters appear to be withdrawing toward their stronghold in the northeastern city of Raqqa, the first provincial capital in Syria to fall to the rebels. The Islamic State’s shadowy leader, known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, once called it the group’s capital. [Continue reading…]