BEIRUT - The local commander of a Syrian rebel group affiliated to al-Qaida was freed on Sunday after being held by Kurdish forces in a power struggle between rival organizations fighting President Bashar Assad, activists said.
However, the pro-opposition activists gave conflicting reports of how the Islamist brigade commander in the Syrian town of Tel Abyad near the Turkish border had come to be free.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamist rebels had exchanged 300 Kurdish residents they had kidnapped for the local head of their group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). Other activist groups challenged this account, saying Islamist fighters had freed Abu Musaab by force, with no Kurdish hostages released.
Sporadic fighting over the past five days in towns near the frontier with Turkey has pitted Islamists trying to cement their control of rebel zones against Kurds trying to assert their autonomy in mostly Kurdish areas.
The trouble highlights how the two-year insurgency against 43 years of Assad family rule is spinning off into strife within his opponents' ranks, running the risk of creating regionalized conflicts that could also destabilize neighboring countries.
The factional fighting could also help Assad's forces, who have launched an offensive to retake territory.