Al-Qaeda militants seized a town near the Turkish border today after expelling Western-backed rebels from the area, demonstrating the growing power of jihadis as they seek to expand their influence across opposition-held Syrian territory. The infighting—now engulfing many parts of northern Syria—threatened to further split opposition forces outgunned by President Bashar al-Assad's troops and strengthen his hand as he engages with world powers on relinquishing his chemical weapons.
The battles for control of Azaz, a town only few miles from the Turkish border, represents some of the worst infighting in recent months. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the town last night, forcing rebels affiliated with the Western-backed Free Syria Army to withdraw. The prospect of al-Qaeda militants so near the frontier is worrisome for the Turkish government, which closed the nearby border crossing of Bab al-Salameh.