Qaeda militants, Islamists evacuate Syria bases

Al Qaeda`s Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front, said Wednesday that it is evacuating its bases and positions in the northeastern province of Idlib, a day after US-led strikes were launched against jihadists.

AFP| Updated: Sep 24, 2014, 18:28 PM IST
Qaeda militants, Islamists evacuate Syria bases

Beirut: Al Qaeda`s Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front, said Wednesday that it is evacuating its bases and positions in the northeastern province of Idlib, a day after US-led strikes were launched against jihadists.

Ahrar al-Sham, a key Islamist rebel group allied with Nusra, was also evacuating its positions in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

On Twitter, Nusra said it had "evacuated the majority" of it bases near residential areas.

"Thousands of fighters from Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham have evacuated their bases in Idlib province," the Observatory said.

The Britain-based group, which relies on a network of activists and other sources on the ground, said Ahrar al-Sham had also urged "civilians to keep their distance from bases" belonging to it.

The evacuations came a day after US air strikes hit a group of al Qaeda fighters in Aleppo province, on the border with Idlib.

Washington said the strikes targeted a cell within Al-Nusra called Khorasan that was planning attacks against Western interests.

The strikes killed at least 50 militants, as well as eight civilians, according to the Observatory.

Activists and experts have cast doubt on the distinction between Khorasan and Al-Nusra, saying the two are one and the same, and both represent al Qaeda in Syria.

The strikes against the group on Tuesday came after raids by US forces and Arab allies against the Islamic State group in northern and eastern Syria.