World Bulletin / News Desk
An al Qaeda affiliate has captured a northern Syrian town on the border with Turkey after ousting a rebel unit and detained its leader, activists said on Thursday.
The fall of the town of Atma, a crossing point for weapons and for Syrian rebels, signals disarray among some of the rebel groups.
Some of these groups are now playing a lesser role on the battlefield in the war against President Bashar al-Assad's forces, opposition sources said.
Activists said fighters of the al Qaeda affiliate - Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL - had stormed the headquarters of Suqur al-Islam, a moderate unit that controlled Atma, and set up roadblocks within the last 48 hours.
They detained Mustafa Waddah, the head of Suqur al-Islam, along with two dozen of his men.
A brief firefight took place at the headquarters and also near a Turkish security post in the town of Bukulmez, which overlooks Atma and its hilly terrain, the sources said.
With its proximity to Turkey, Atma has been largely spared shelling and air raids by Assad's forces. But thousands of people who fled bombings elsewhere in the country had taken refuge in the town and surrounding area.
"The ISIL deployed anti-aircraft guns at the main roundabout and took Atma quietly," said one of the activists, who did not want to be named.
He said Waddah's whereabouts were not known, but he may have been taken to the town of Dana, an ISIL stronghold where the group had set up a religious court.
Suqur al-Islam is a unit of the Free Syrian Army General Staff, headed by General Selim Idriss, the main opposition military figure, who is based in Turkey. But Suqur al-Islam and the General Staff have fallen out over sharing the weapons crossing through Atma, the activists said.
In the last few days, fighting erupted between Sukur al-Islam and other Free Syrian Army members after Sukur al-Islam seized seven trucks loaded with weapons sent by the General Staff that crossed through Atma.
"Suqur al-Islam were exhausted after the fighting with the General Command and the ISIL walked easily into their headquarters," said Abdallah al-Sheikh, an activist in Atma.
"Basically there was collusion between the General Staff and the ISIL."
Officials of the Free Syrian Army General Staff were not immediately available for comment.
Free Syrian Army units, including Sukur al-Islam and the ISIL had cooperated in the region before, mainly to fight Kurdish militia linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party who had encroached on Atma, the activists said.
However, the two sides have also fought against each other, underscoring the complex relationships among Assad's foes.
In August the ISIL took control of the northern border town of Azaz, expelling another Free Syrian Army unit and prompting Turkey to close a nearby border crossing.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE's state minister for foreign affairs, issued the warning more than two weeks into the oil-rich region's worst crisis in years.
State of emergency was initially declared following April’s deadly twin church attacks
Six Kalibr cruise missiles were fired from eastern Mediterranean, says defense ministry
Turkey has quality human resources, outstanding capabilities, high-class products, says Kuwaiti minister
Activist is vocal opponent of controversial border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia
Ship dispatched by Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) carries 10,000 tons of supplies to blockaded enclave
U.S. Statement Department questioned motives of Gulf allies for their blockade on Qatar
Signaling Washington's mounting frustration at Riyadh's role in the crisis, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called into question whether Qatar's alleged support for terrorism is its true cause.
Arrests come two weeks after terrorist group claims responsibility for deadly twin attacks in Tehran
Transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi sovereignty would make Riyadh party to 1979 Egypt-Israel peace agreement, MP says
Javad Zarif is slated to meet Mauritanian president, foreign minister to discuss bilateral ties, regional developments
Three small boats entered Saudi territorial waters at about 8:30 pm on Friday and "headed at speed towards platforms of (the) Saudi oil field of Marjan", a government statement said.
The soldiers, part of the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) which is headquartered in Bahrain, had been asked to leave the coalition and may depart within the next 48 hours, the source told AFP.
Syrian jet dropped bombs near U.S. partners forces, anti-ISIL coalition says
Strikes come after last week's deadly attacks in Tehran were claimed by terror network