Turning the tide? Six Syrian rebel groups join forces to counter rise of al-Qa'ida

The new Islamic Front will have an estimated 45,000 fighters under its control

A number of powerful Syrian rebel groups have joined forces in a bid to bring order and unity the various factions fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power and counter the rise of al-Qa'ida in the country.

Six major Islamist rebel groups with an estimated 45,000 fighters under their control have signed up to the "Islamic Front", making it the largest rebel alliance to emerge in the two and a half years-long civil war. 

"The Islamic Front is an independent military and social force that is aimed at bringing down Assad's regime in Syria and at replacing it with a just Islamic state," the groups said in a statement, published on Friday.

The new coalition includes Liwa al-Tawhid - Aleppo's largest fighting group, Ahrar al-Sham, the Army of Islam, Suqour al-Sham, Liwa al-Haq and the Ansar al-Sham battalions.

Analysts said the unification of the various groups under a single command structure could dramatically improve the fighting ability of the previously disorganised rebel forces, and may lead to a reversal of recent gains made by government forces in recent months.

"Psychologically, this will also be of considerable importance," said Charles Lister, and analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. "A development like this will undoubtedly result in a renewed intensity in rebel operations across many key parts of the country."

"The principal intention for forming this new coalition has been to establish a body perceived as truly representative of the Syrian insurgency," Mr Lister said, adding that the new grouping "should prove a landmark moment for the revolution."

The new coalition is likely to provide a counterweight to the rise of extremist al-Qa'ida-linked groups such as the Islamic State of Iraqi and as-Sham (ISIS), which has been strengthening its grip across northern Syria in recent months. The groups that have joined the Islamic Front are notably less hardline than ISIS and its ally Jabhat al-Nusra.

Amad Essa al-Sheikh, the head of the Consultative Council of the new Islamic Front, told Al Jazeera that it would work with the Western-backed opposition-in-exile and its fighting force nominally under the control of General Salam Idris, the Supreme Military Council, whose numbers have dwindled as fighters have joined better funded rebel brigades.

The announcement comes in the wake of a number of setbacks for the Syrian rebels. Government forces have in recent weeks made major advances on key battlegrounds around Damascus and Aleppo in the country's north, and less than a week ago the leader of Liwa al-Tawhid, Abdel Qader Saleh, was killed in an airstrike carried out by Assad's airforce.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher required - Cardiff

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Professional Training: Randstad E...

HR Advisor - Camden / Kentish Town, North London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Camden / Ken...

Year 5 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Year 5 class teacher vacan...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Learning Supp...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week