Merging to build fighting force, Syrian rebels say

A Syrian rebel group said it had merged with a number of other rebel groups to boost Aleppo fight

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A Syrian insurgent group said on Friday it had merged with a number of other rebel groups around Aleppo province to become a stronger fighting force in the country’s five-year-old civil war.

The group Failaq al-Sham, or Sham Legion, said on its Twitter feed it had merged with eight other fighting groups to form a new entity called the Northern Brigade.

In early January, Failaq al-Sham pulled out of a coalition of Islamist factions operating in the northwest of the country, in order to redeploy around Aleppo where pro-government forces had been intensifying assaults.

Failaq al-Sham withdrew from the Army of Conquest, which includes the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and powerful Islamist group Ahrar al Sham, and which captured most of neighboring Idlib province in 2015.

Since Russia’s intervention in the Syria conflict in September with an air campaign to support President Bashar al-Assad, pro-government forces have stepped up offensives in the west and north of the country.

Failaq al-Sham said in its statement that it wanted to unify revolutionary units into one body to be militarily and administratively stronger.

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