Syria opposition battles Qaeda away from Assad army
BEIRUT - A newly formed Syrian rebel alliance has declared war on the powerful Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined other opposition groups in battling the extremists.
"We, the Army of the Mujahideen, pledge to defend ourselves and our honour, wealth and lands, and to fight ISIL, which has violated the rule of God, until it announces its dissolution," said the new alliance of eight groups, in a statement published on Facebook Friday.
The alliance demanded that ISIL fighters either join the ranks of other rebel groups "or hand over their weapons and leave Syria."
The alliance accused ISIL of "spreading strife and insecurity... in liberated (rebel) areas, spilling the blood of fighters and wrongly accusing them of heresy, and expelling them and their families from areas they have paid heavily to free" from Assad's regime.
The Army of Mujahideen also accused ISIL of theft and looting, and of "kidnapping, killing and torturing (rebel) commanders and activists," echoing repeated complaints among opposition ranks against the Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The newly formed group is made up of eight small to medium-sized brigades, and it was not immediately clear how many fighters it commanded.
But as the statement was issued it fought fierce clashes against ISIL in the Aleppo and Idlib provinces of northern Syria.
The Islamic Front, the largest rebel alliance, which is made up of several powerful Islamist groups, and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, another major rebel bloc, also battled ISIL on Friday.
Syria's main opposition National Coalition and activists on the ground have accused ISIL of serving the interests of Assad's regime by tarnishing the image of the uprising, which began as a popular movement calling for democratic reform.
Assad's regime has long referred to all of its opponents -- peaceful activists and rebels alike -- as "terrorists" in a bid to deter more forceful Western intervention in the conflict.