Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria said Monday it is withdrawing from areas along the border with Turkey where Ankara and Washington hope to drive out the Islamic State group.
The move by the Nusra Front came two weeks after Turkey began carrying out airstrikes against IS targets in Syria. Turkey also agreed to allow U.S. warplanes to use the strategic Incirlik Air Base for operations against IS in Syria. The two countries have agreed on the outlines of a plan to create an IS-free zone along the border.
On Sunday, six U.S. F-16 fighter jets arrived at Incirlik to join the coalition fight against Islamic State militants, the U.S. military said, days after Turkey’s foreign minister said that an “extensive” fight against the extremists would soon begin.
The Nusra Front and the IS group are both committed to bringing about Islamic rule in Syria, but are bitterly divided and have battled each other across the country. U.S. officials say a cell within the Nusra Front has plotted attacks against Western interests, and U.S. warplanes have targeted the group as part of the larger campaign against IS.
Late last month, the Nusra Front battled the U.S.-backed rebel faction known as Division 30 and killed, wounded or captured dozens of its fighters.
It was not immediately clear from which areas the Nusra Front has already withdrawn. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said they have withdrawn from two areas and were replaced by members of the Shamia Front, or Levant Front, which is a coalition of several insurgent groups.
IS has launched several attacks over the past year to try and capture the air base near the IS stronghold of al-Bab.
Source: ABC News