Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Sources close to the Syrian opposition in the Latakia region told Asharq Al-Awsat that Free Syrian Army (FSA) and independent Islamist fighters have joined forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to force the group out of the area and ensure the surrender of its leader Abu Ayman Al-Iraqi, following recent clashes.
The sources said the refusal of ISIS to abide by agreements reached in efforts to mediate in recent clashes between armed opposition groups in the area “may lead to a wide war between the two sides.”
This followed an attempt last week to assassinate Abu Rahhal, commander of the “Hijra to Allah” brigades, which is affiliated to the FSA, resulting in the death of his bodyguard. Sources said the clashes erupted when a checkpoint manned by Abu Rahhal’s group stopped armed members of ISIS in a car, leading to an armed clash between the two sides.
They added that FSA leaders and other activists in the region mediated between the two sides, and received a promise from the emir of the ISIS group, Abu Ayman Al-Iraqi to “ensure the safety of FSA prisoners held by his group.” The sources further added that “the next day, six prisoners… held by ISIS were found dead in Al-Shaghr village in the Jisr Al-Shughour area, with signs of torture and following a public execution.”
Meanwhile, sources said Jalal Bayerly, a shari’a judge in the Kurdish and Turkmen territory who attempted to mediate the dispute “was killed when he visited an ISIS base, resulting in an escalation in the military situation.” They added that “following the death of… Bayerly, the FSA’s Omar Al-Mokhtar Brigade detained three ISIS members who were found to be Russian immigrants who had come to Syria to fight alongside ISIS.”
Following this incident, “a shari’a court was formed, including all factions in the region, in order to stop the bloodshed and punish the criminals, and a number of demands were made to ISIS to restore calm.”
Sources close to the shari’a court told Asharq Al-Awsat that the court demanded that “new checkpoints erected by ISIS in the area be removed, and the emir of ISIS in the coastal region, Abu Ayman Al-Iraqi surrender to the court for breaking the promise [he made], in addition to the departure of ISIS from the region permanently.”
Meanwhile, the Al-Nusra Front took charge of negotiations on a prisoner exchange between the FSA and ISIS, and issued a deadline for implementation. The sources added that “the deadline was long and may even extend to weeks, in order to stop the bloodshed and end the fighting between the two sides.”
They further added that “the situation in the area is still tense, and a solution has not yet been found,” warning that “if ISIS failed to surrender its emir, Abu Ayman Al-Iraqi, the two sides will fight again, and a huge war will ensue.”