Free Syrian Army rebels defecting to al Qaeda-linked group

Syria`s main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra.

Updated: May 09, 2013, 12:20 PM IST

London: Syria`s main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al Qaeda.

The group is fast emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad`s regime.

FSA commanders said that their entire units have gone over to al-Nusra. Abu Ahmed, a former teacher from Deir Hafer who now commanded an FSA brigade in the countryside near Aleppo, said that fighters were feeling proud to join al-Nusra because that meant power and influence.

According to the Guardian, Ahmed said that the FSA has lost fighters to al-Nusra in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor and the Damascus region.

The FSA`s Ahrar al-Shimal brigade joined al-Nusra en masse while the Sufiyan al-Thawri brigade in Idlib lost 65 of its fighters to al-Nusra a few months ago for lack of weapons.

Abu Islam of the FSA`s al-Tawhid brigade in Aleppo said that fighters were heading to al-Nusra because of its Islamic doctrine, sincerity, good funding and advanced weapons.

According to the report, the growing strength of al-Nusra underlines the dilemma for the US, Britain and other governments as they ponder the question of arming anti-Assad rebels.

The US, which has outlawed al-Nusra as a terrorist group, has hesitated to arm the FSA, while the western and Gulf-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition has tried to assuage concerns by promising strict control over weapons, the report added.