A group that is linked to al-Qaeda has seized the strategic town of Azaz close to the Turkish border. The group fought for the town against members of the Free Syrian Army the mainstream opposition to the Syrian government in the country.
The capture of the town puts the group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, only a kilometer from the border at Bab al-Salameh with Turkey. The town had been under the control of the opposition for over a year.
The crossing however, remains under the control of the FSA after reinforcements were sent by the rebels, including tanks and heavy weapons, said an activist located at the crossing.
The insurgent group, which at times fights beside the rebels and at times against them, led an attack on the Azaz hospital attempting to detain a doctor from Germany, who was working there. No one is sure what group or association the doctor was affiliated with. Some activists have said that Doctors without Borders run the hospital, but that was denied by the organization’s spokesperson.
Fighters defended the Azaz hospital and numerous clashes erupted, which left several fighters and innocent civilians dead. One activist tried to broker a truce between the two groups but a sniper shot him and he bled to death.
Within just a few hours, control of the town was taken by the Islamic State, including the Azaz hospital. Doctors were detained. Rebel checkpoints were also attacked along the outlying areas of the town and they were seized.
Fighters from Islamic State have been in the town for quite a while, and have little by little attempted to take control of the town’s operation, including its mosques and centers.