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IS, Al-Qaida Reach Accord
International

IS, Al-Qaida Reach Accord

Militant leaders from the IS group and al-Qaida gathered at a farm house in northern Syria last week and agreed on a plan to stop fighting each other and work together against their opponents, a high-level Syrian opposition official and a rebel commander have told The Associated Press.
Such an accord could present new difficulties for Washington’s strategy against the IS group. While warplanes from a US-led coalition strike militants from the air, the Obama administration has counted on arming “moderate” rebel factions to push them back on the ground. Those rebels, already considered relatively weak and disorganized, would face far stronger opposition if the two heavy-hitting militant groups now are working together.
IS and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, have fought each other bitterly for more than a year to dominate the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Associated Press reported late last month on signs that the two groups appear to have curtailed their feud with informal local truces. Their new agreement, according to the sources in rebel groups opposed to both IS and Nusra Front, would involve a promise to stop fighting and team up in attacks in some areas of northern Syria.
According to a Syrian opposition official speaking in Turkey, the meeting took place Nov. 2 in the town of Atareb, west of Aleppo, starting at around midnight and lasting until 4 a.m. The official said the meeting was closely followed by members of his movement, and he is certain that an agreement was reached. The official said about seven top militant leaders attended.
A second source, a commander of brigades affiliated with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army who is known as Abu Musafer, said he also had learned that high-ranking members of Nusra and IS met on Nov. 2. He did not disclose the exact location, but said it was organized by a third party and took place in an area where the FSA is active.
According to Abu Musafer, two decisions were reached: First, to halt infighting between Nusra and IS and second, for the groups together to open up fronts against Kurdish fighters in a couple of new areas of northern Syria.
According to the opposition official, the meeting included an IS representative, two emissaries from Nusra Front, and attendees from the Khorasan Group, a small but battle-hardened band of al-Qaida veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also reported present at the meeting was Jund al-Aqsa, a hard-line faction that has sworn allegiance to IS; and Ahrar al-Sham, a conservative Muslim rebel group.
The official said IS and the Nusra Front agreed to work to destroy the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a prominent rebel faction armed and trained by the United States and led by a fighter named Jamal Maarouf. They agreed to keep fighting until all of the force, estimated to be 10,000 to 12,000 fighters, was eliminated, the official said.
During the meeting, IS also offered to send extra fighters to Nusra Front for an assault it launched last week on Western-backed rebels from the Hazm Movement near the town of Khan al-Sunbul in northern Syria, the official said. IS sent about 100 fighters in 22 pickup trucks but Nusra ended up not needing the assistance, he said, because Hazm decided not to engage in the fight. Sixty-five Hazm fighters defected to Nusra, he said.

  Baghdadi’s New Message
Meanwhile, the IS has released an audiotape it says was recorded by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, days after reports that he had been killed or injured.
In the recording, released via social media, the speaker says IS fighters will never stop fighting “even if only one soldier remains”.
The BBC said the recording appears authentic and recent.
The IS leader was said to have been caught in a US-led air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul last week.
Thursday’s 17-minute recording makes no direct reference to that air strike, but does mention some developments that have occurred since then.
The IS audiotape mentions US President Barack’s Obama decision to deploy an extra 1,500 troops to Iraq - a move announced shortly after the air strike on Mosul.
The recording calls on IS supporters to expand fight across the world.

   Head of Snake
The recording also calls for attacks in Saudi Arabia - describing Saudi leaders as “the head of the snake” - and says that the US-led military campaign in Syria and Iraq is failing.
Persian Gulf state rulers, who have joined the US-led coalition against IS, are described as “treacherous”.
The recording also refers to new pledges of allegiance from militant groups in Libya, Egypt and Yemen that occurred in recent days.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself is a shadowy figure who only showed himself publicly for the first time in a video released in July, when he delivered a sermon in Mosul, Iraq.

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