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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions