it really does sound as if ISIS/ISIL has become the enemy of all the other jihadi groups

In the comments here, it says among other things, “Northern Storm (Asifat al-Shamal) in Azaz just issued statement supporting ‘Islamic coalition'”. Now that’s the FSA brigade which has been fighting ISIL. IPS have an article from inside the FSA, suggesting ISIS/ISIL are secretly in league with Assad against the rest.

Here’s a recap of the ISIS/ISIL story. In April of this year, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the second leader of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) after the decease in April 2010 of the first leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, released an audio statement in which he claimed that Jabhat al-Nusra had been established, financed and supported by the ISI. Al-Baghdadi declared that the two groups were officially merging under the name “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham” or “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIS/ISIL). Thus, according to him, Jabhat al-Nusra is ISI’s branch in Syria, and the two combined are ISIS/ISIL. But the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, issued a statement the following day denying the merger, complaining that neither he nor anyone else in the leadership had been consulted about it, and affirming Jabhat al-Nusra’s allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri. In June, Zawahiri himself wrote to both leaders, ruling against the merger and appointing an emissary to oversee relations between them and put an end to tensions. Six days later, ISI/ISIS/ISIL chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio message rejecting Zawahiri’s ruling and declaring the merger was going ahead.

This month, ISIS/ISIL killed Ahrar ash-Sham commander Abu Obeida al-Binnishi. Ahrar al-Sham fighters were trying to free members of an Islamic charity from Malaysia who had been kidnapped by ISIS. Also this month, ISIS overran Azaz, taking it from the FSA-affiliated Northern Storm brigade. ISIS had attempted to kidnap a German doctor working in Azaz, and the Northern Storm brigade had taken exception to this. In an interview with the Syrian National Media Centre (a Kuwait-sponsored entity) in July, a suspected al-Qaeda member named Abu Musab al-Suri alleged that ISIS/ISIL had been infiltrated by the Syrian regime. It is said that ISIS/ISIL avoids direct confrontations with the army and tries to divide other groups. So this new coalition includes Jabhat al-Nusra and excludes ISIS/ISIL. It is conceivable that what we are looking at here is a proxy war between the Sauds and Kuwait – RB

Jihadis in Syria reject SNC, call for Islamic leadership
Reuters, Sep 25 2013

A group of powerful rebel units have rejected the authority of the Western-backed Syrian opposition leadership abroad and called for it to be reorganized under an Islamic framework, according to a video statement posted on the internet. At least 13 rebel factions were said to have endorsed the statement, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Liwaa al-Tawhid battalions. An elderly man reading the statement in the video said:

These forces feel that all groups formed abroad without having returned to the country do not represent them, and they will not recognize them. Therefore the National Coalition and its transitional government led by Ahmad Tumeh do not represent it and will not be recognized. These forces call on all military and civilian forces to unite under a clear Islamic framework based on Sharia law, which should be the sole source of legislation.

The man reading the statement was not immediately identifiable to Reuters, but the video was posted on several of the social media pages belonging to groups said to have signed on to it, such as Liwaa al-Tawhid.

Key Jihadi groups say do not recognise SNC
AFP, Sep 24 2013

BEIRUT – 13 of Syria’s most powerful Jihadi groups said late Tuesday that they do not recognise any foreign-based opposition group, including the SNC. The groups include members of the FSA and more radical Jihadis. Among the signatories are Liwa al-Tawhid, the main rebel force in the northern province of Aleppo, and Jabhat al-Nusra. Ahrar al-Sham also signed on, as did the 19th Division, a significant but relatively new addition to the mainstream FSA. They said in a joint statement:

The National Coalition and the proposed government under Ahmad Tomeh does not represent us, nor do we recognise it. These forces call on all military and civilian groups to unite in a clear Islamic context that is based on sharia law, making it the sole source of legislation. We call for unity and to reject division, putting the interest of the umma over the interest of the group.

The statement comes amid an escalation of violence pitting fighters from various factions across the rebel spectrum against ISIL.

New Islamist Bloc Declares Opposition to SNC
Aron Lund, Syria Comment, Sep 24 2013

The following 13 groups are listed as signatories to the statement:

  • Jabhat al-Nusra
  • Ahrar al-Sham
  • Liwa al-Tawhid
  • Liwa al-Islam
  • Suqour al-Sham
  • Islamic Dawn Movement
  • Islamic Light Movement
  • Liwa Noureddin al-Zengi
  • Liwa al-Haqq – Homs
  • Liwa al-Furqan – Quneitra
  • Fa-staqim Kama Ummirat – Aleppo
  • 19th Division
  • Liwa al-Ansar

Who are these people?
The alleged signatories make up a major part of the northern rebel force, plus big chunks also of the Homs and Damascus rebel scene, as well as a bit of it elsewhere. Some of them are among the biggest armed groups in the country, and I’m thinking now mostly of numbers one through five. All together, they control at least a few tens of thousand fighters, and if you trust their own estimates (don’t) it must be way above 50,000 fighters. Most of the major insurgent alliances are included. Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam and Suqour al-Sham are in both the SNC/FSA and the SILF, sort-of-moderate Islamists. Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Haqq are in the SIF, very hardline Islamists. Jabhat al-Nusra, of course, is an al-Qaida faction. Liwa Noureddin al-Zengi are in the Asala wa-Tanmiya alliance, which is led by quietist Salafis, more or less, as well as in the SNC. And so on. More groups may join, but already at this stage, it looks, on paper at least, like the most powerful insurgent alliance in Syria.

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