Syrian opposition fighters fear a “side war” with Islamist extremists, a Free Syrian Army official told The Washington Post on Saturday, as new attacks suggest a dangerous increase of infighting between rebel factions.
The assassination on Thursday of an FSA rebel commander by what the rebels are saying was an al-Qaeda gunman has heightened tension between the Western-backed FSA and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has extended its influence in rebel-held areas of northern Syria, The Washington Post reported.
“They have a plan to kill the FSA leaders,” Louay al-Mokdad, the FSA’s political and media coordinator, told the newspaper. “We don’t want a side war. We don’t want any battle with them. But if they spill our people’s blood, which is what they are doing, we will have to fight.”
An attack at the FSA’s headquarters in the northwestern province of Idlib early Saturday was another sign of increased hostility between the two factions. Mokdad would not comment on the attack in his interview with The Washington Post, but a senior FSA official confirmed that the attack took place and that the Islamic State was responsible.
“The situation is going to get worse and worse,” the official told the newspaper.
Col. Abdul-Jabbar Akidi, the FSA’s commander in Aleppo, denied reports of fighting between rebels and Islamic State members on Saturday near the Bustan al-Qasr checkpoint, the main crossing between government- and rebel-held areas of the town. The opposition’s Aleppo Media Centre also released a statement denying the report, The Washington Post reported.