Insight: Beheadings and spies help al Qaeda gain ground in Syria

A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he peeks out from a damaged shop in AleppoBy Khaled Yacoub Oweis AMMAN (Reuters) – Armed with machine guns, black-clad al Qaeda fighters drove their pick-ups calmly into the northern Syrian town and took over its imposing agriculture ministry building. The scene in Termanin, recounted by an activist who witnessed it last week, is being repeated in towns along the border with Turkey and at road junctions further inside Syria that have fallen out of President Bashar al-Assad's control. Whether through weakness or a desire to focus on Assad, rebel units are making way for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda affiliate led by foreigners hardened by guerrilla warfare in Iraq, Chechnya and Libya. The landgrab has given radical jihadists a large territorial base in the heart of a Middle East convulsed by the civil war raging in Syria since 2011.


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