Syrian Rebels Beginning to Fight Among Themselves

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Free Syrian Army members, under the name of the Farouq Brigades, run during a combat training in the Syrian town of Sarmada, in Idlib province, on July 9, 2012.

TAL ABYAD, Syria – The day started like a regular Sunday for Mohammad al-Daher, better known as Abu Azzam, the commander of the rebel Farouq Brigades in the vast swathe of eastern Syria called the Jazira, a region that stretches from the Turkish border to the Iraqi frontier and encompasses the three provinces of Raqqa, Hasaka, and Deir Ezzor.  He had a series of meetings in the morning in a number of locations in the bustling town of Tal Abyad on Syria’s border with Turkey as well as in the partially destroyed former police station that is the Farouq’s headquarters. And he was going to visit his mother.

By late-afternoon, however, the burly 34-year-old Raqqa native would be lying in a hospital bed – wounded by members of the ultraconservative Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra (which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization with links to Al-Qaeda). Abu Azzam’s targeting has blown open a sharp rift and long-brewing conflict between the more-secular nationwide Farouq brigades and the Jabhat. The two groups are among the most effective, best organized and most well-known of the many military outfits aligned against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — and the fight between them is just beginning.

Full dispatch here.