Al Qaida-linked group attack anti-gov't protest in northwestern Syria

February 9, 2013 9:43 am 

DAMASCUS, Feb. 9 — Members and supporters of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front attacked Friday an anti-government protest in Syrian northwestern province of Idlib, tearing down the protesters' flag and chanting for establishing a "caliphate."

An online video shot by Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed the radical group storming the "pro-democracy protest" held in Idlib's Sarqeb town. After tearing down the protesters' black, white and green flag, the Nusra fighters and supporters chanted that "it will only be an Islamic caliphate."

The observatory said the incident is the second within a week in which radicals disperse activists in Sarqeb, a town allegedly under the rebels' control.

The United States branded Nusra Front as a terrorist organization last month, after it claimed responsibility for almost all the explosions that rattled security and military posts across Syria.

Fighting currently alongside the rebels' Free Syria Army, the Nusra Front has recently said it is interested in neither freedom nor democracy and its ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state on the "wreckage" of the current administration.

Analysts said the Nusra Front is believed to be a striking force in the fight against the government troops nationwide, and Friday's incident manifests that the 22-month "revolution" in Syria has been hijacked by radical groups affiliated with al-Qaida.

Meanwhile, fights renewed in several areas in the unrest-torn country on Friday, most notably in areas surrounding the capital Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes in Damascus' eastern suburb Jobar, as well as shelling and airstrike on the nearby areas of Zamalka and Qaboun. Clashes also continued in Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in the capital and the western countryside of Daraya and Muadamieh.

The observatory said three young men from the Dummar neighborhood in Damascus were tortured to death by government forces, adding that the government troops carried out Friday a campaign of raids and arrests in the Damascus neighborhood of Adawi. Several residents were taken away, the report said.

The capital's fighting started Wednesday when rebels waged attacks on army checkpoints in Jobar and tried to push their way to enter the capital. With the Syrian army responding with heavy shelling and firepower, sounds of shells have become daily routine since Wednesday.

Earlier Friday, the state media said the sheikh of Salahuddien Mosque in northern city Aleppo was killed when mortar shells fired by armed groups landed at the mosque.

Syria has been engulfed in a bloody conflict between opposition forces and government troops since March 2011. It has so far claimed some 60,000 lives, according to UN estimates. (PNA/Xinhua)

LAM/RSM

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