FSA hit back at ISIS in east Syria province

Syrians inspect site of explosion in Douma. (File Photo: Reuters)

Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) expelled fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from parts of the eastern city of Al Bukamal near the border with Iraq, sources told Al Arabiya News Channel Saturday.

The FSA, which is also seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, had launched a large campaign to clear the mainly ISIS-held city of the militant fighters.

FSA reinforcements were dispatched at dawn Saturday as part of the campaign.

The moderate Syrian opposition also issued a 24-hour ultimatum for ISIS to vacate the city, which is in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor.

Earlier this week ISIS fighters appeared to be consolidating their hold over Al Bukamal when the local leader of the rival Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's official branch in Syria, pledged allegiance to them, Reuters news agency reported.

ISIS is a more radical offshoot of Al-Qaeda that has its roots in Iraq and expanded into Syria shortly after the start of the three-year insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.

It controls much of Syria's eastern oil-producing Euphrates River region, and its lightning gains in Iraq's Sunni Muslim northern and western provinces over the last three weeks means ISIL now commands a large cross-border expanse of territory - in which Al Bukamal forms an important link.

An Islamist website quoted Abu Yusuf al-Masri, the local Nusra Front leader who gave an oath of allegiance to ISIL on Tuesday, as saying a suicide bomber blew himself in Albu Kamal on Friday night, killing three of Masri's men and wounding 20.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, reported heavy fighting overnight and into Saturday in the town between ISIS-aligned forces and rival Islamists, who include Nusra Front fighters from outside the town who had not sided with ISIS.

Infographic: Syrian forces target ISIS

Infographic: Syrian forces target ISIS

Infographic: Syrian forces target ISIS


The Observatory's Rami Abdul Rahman told Reuters that local tribal figures were trying to broker a ceasefire across Deir al-Zor.

Al Bukamal lies across the border from the Iraqi town of al-Qaim, which was seized by ISIL fighters more than a week ago.

The town was bombed by jets on Tuesday in an attack which Iraqi and Syrian sources said was carried out by Syria's air force. State media in Damascus denied that any Syrian planes struck inside Iraq and Iraq's prime minister said the Syrian jets hit targets inside Syrian territory.

The military gains by Islamic State fighters have highlighted the extent to which the conflict in Iraq is intertwined with the civil war in Syria, where more than 160,000 people have been killed in the last three years.

On Saturday several people were killed, including at least two children, when a car bomb exploded in the Syrian town of Douma, northeast of the capital Damascus, the Observatory said.

Video uploaded on the Internet by activists showed the flaming wreckage of an overturned vehicle in front of the blackened pillars of a nearby building, which activists said was located in a popular Douma market.


 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44
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