Arabs battle Syrian Kurds as Assad's foes fragment

September 26, 2013 22:47

AMMAN - Syrian rebels and al-Qaida-linked fighters clashed with Kurds in northern Syria on Thursday, activists said, in a battle for territory highlighting the country's descent towards sectarian and ethnic fiefdoms after two years of war.

The heavy fighting in the town of Atma on the border with Turkey's Hatay province followed outbreaks of internecine conflict by rival rebel forces elsewhere, which have undermined their military campaign to topple President Bashar Assad.

Even Assad's Sunni Muslim Arab opponents look increasingly divided after 13 rebel groups this week rejected the authority of the opposition coalition in exile and called for new Islamist leadership.

At least 15 fighters have been killed in two days of clashes around Atma, activists said.

The fighting pits Syrian Kurds, alarmed by what they see as Islamist encroachment in northern Syria, against Arab rebels who suspect the Kurds of seeking secession.

Faced with what they see as a shared Kurdish threat, moderate Free Syrian Army rebels fought in Atma alongside the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida affiliate controlled by foreign jihadists, only a week after the two factions fought each other in another border town.

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