Gaining a Clearer View of the Syrian Civil War

(Der Spiegel-Germany) Christoph Reuter - By late autumn 2012, tens of thousands of rebels were fighting against the Assad regime, but they didn't match the cliched image of the fearless super-terrorist, heavily bearded and always ready for action. Likewise, the 200 to 300 Libyans who were in northern Syria in September came not to establish an Islamic state, but to topple their next dictator. There are also dozens of Iraqi Sunnis fighting on the rebels' side, for example around the city of Deir el-Zour near the Iraqi border, and they are the ones most likely to have connections to al-Qaeda's former Iraqi presence. Two groups identifying themselves as fundamentalists have also cropped up in Aleppo: "Ahrar al-Sham," which translates as "Free Men of Syria," and the "Al-Nusra Front." Both groups work together with the FSA, but operate outside its command structure. The two groups each include around 50 foreigners in their ranks - Dagestanis, Tajiks, Pakistanis, Tunisians, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Saudis, Turks - most of whom met in Egypt at a year-long program for Islamic preachers. What these foreigners in Aleppo have in common, says one member of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, is less a hatred of Assad than a conviction that they must fight against all Shiites, whom they consider traitors to Sunni Islam. "When this is over," the man says, "they want to continue on and fight against Hizbullah."

2013-01-02 00:00:00

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