Al-Qaida seizes territory from moderate Syrian group

BEIRUT/AMMAN - Fighters linked to al-Qaida have seized territory from a moderate Syrian rebel group in a three-day campaign that has expanded their control into one of the few areas of northern Syria not held by hardline Islamists.

Syrian opposition activists and a military commander said the Nusra Front had taken several villages in Idlib province from the Syria Revolutionaries' Front led by Jamal Maarouf, a prominent figure in the moderate opposition to President Bashar Assad.

"This has happened before and we came through it. But this time the mobilization is very large," said a military official in the Syria Revolutionaries' Front.

Twenty of the group's fighters had been killed on Monday, the official said.

The Nusra Front is al-Qaida's official affiliate in the Syrian civil war and one of the strongest insurgent groups fighting to topple Assad. But it has been overshadowed by the Islamic State, which has seized swathes of northern and eastern Syria and is being targeted by US-led air strikes.

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