Al-Qaeda detainees reveal ties with Assad

Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are seen detained by the Free Syrian Army fighters (unseen) after the FSA captured their base in the countryside of Hama January 9, 2014. (Reuters)

Al Arabiya News Channel aired a video on Monday showing detained members of al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria, with some telling stories that suggest links to the Syrian regime.

There has been heavy fighting between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The fighting broke out last month after reports that ISIS, the al-Qaeda affiliate, was enforcing a strict version of Shariah in the areas it controls and was carrying out mass executions of fellow rebel fighters it accuses of apostasy.

The FSA, joined with other moderate rebel groups, declared a war on ISIS, accusing it of cooperating with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and of seeking to divide rebels.

Ever since the fighting broke out many in both sides were killed or detained. Some of those al-Qaeda members who fell to rebels’ hands said ISIS had ties with the Syrian regime.

“It happened once that a Syrian regime officer and 11 others defected and drove their vehicle through Masila [north of Raqqa]. We received ordered to arrest them and hand them over back to the regime,” a detained al-Qaeda member said.

He said ISIS was behind a bombing that destroyed Raqqa’s train station last year. “We received orders from Commander Abu Anas al-Iraqi to bomb the train station. We were also ordered to fire on ambulances and civilians trying to reach the victims,” he said.

Abu Anas al-Iraqi leads an al-Qaeda brigade in the province of Raqqa. He is nicknamed al-Iraqi after his country Iraq, where he used to work as an intelligence officer, according to another detainee.

“Abu Anas is financed directly by the regime, through Iran and Iraq. His brigade is specialized in kidnappings, car bombs and targeted assassinations of FSA members,” the detainee said.

While several ISIS members shown on the video were reportedly captured during fighting, many said they defected after realizing the brutality and the agenda of the al-Qaeda affiliate.

The FSA refused to say how many members of ISIS it has in custody. The video shown on Al Arabiya was filmed inside an FSA security building.

One detainee was identified as Abdullah was the emir in charge of one suburb of Idlib province.

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“I used to be in charge of an area in Maarat al-Numan for ISIS,” Abdullah said.

When asked about the mass graves of civilians including children in Maarat al-Numan which the FSA blames on ISIS, the al-Qaeda emir defended his group and said this took place during “fitna” (sedition) “when there were many problems.”

While he didn’t clarify what those “problems” were, he said: “We didn’t allow any violations, and if they allowed us this wouldn’t have happened.” He was referring to the FSA rebels.

ISIS, trying to impose a hardline version of Islam, has alienated many Syrians, who are more moderate. FSA said the al-Qaeda affiliate started killing journalists, terrorizing people including executing and stoning people for not adhering to their puritanical Islam.

“Once I knew that ISIS was killing journalists and people I stopped,” said Abdullah, the al-Qaeda members.

On Sunday, the group posted an online video on the internet reaching out to the rebels and urging and end to their infighting.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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