Al-Qaeda Militants Capture Syrian Town—From Rival Rebels
It's more evidence of infighting among Assad's enemies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 19, 2013 4:40 PM CDT
In this file photo, a Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during fighting with the Syrian Army in Azaz, Syria. Now al-Qaeda militants have taken control of the town.   (Virginie Nguyen Hoang)
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(Newser) – 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.