Syrian al Qaeda branch calls for truce to halt rebel infighting

by Reuters
Tuesday, 7 January 2014 14:59 GMT

People inspect a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

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BEIRUT, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The head of an al Qaeda-linked rebel group in Syria called on Tuesday for a ceasefire between opposition factions who have clashed for five days in the bloodiest episode of infighting since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began.

The audio recording from the leader of the powerful Nusra Front, who goes by the name Abu Mohammed al-Golani, also laid much of the blame for the fighting on an al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

While both groups have roots in the global Islamist network and welcome foreign militants, the Nusra Front has cooperated more with other rebel groups and has largely avoided the power struggles that ISIL has dealt with since wresting control of many opposition-held areas from other groups.

"Many rebel units have committed transgressions, just as the mistaken policies followed by played a prominent role in fuelling the conflict," he said.

Golani proposed forming an Islamic legal council to solve feuds among the rebels and called for the militants to return to their shared goal of fighting Assad's forces.

"This unfortunate situation has pushed us to launch an initiative to save the battlefields from being lost. This will be done by forming an independent legal council by all the (rebel) factions in addition to a ceasefire," Golani said.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy, Writing by Erika Solomon, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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