Al Qaeda affiliates have turned their guns on one another in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
The warring parties: the al-Nusra Front and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), who have been battling for control over the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor.
The province is seemingly of high strategic value to ISIL because it shares a border with Iraq. ISIL formed as an offshoot of the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 100,000 citizens of the province have fled during the course of the war.
The infighting between the two radical Islamist groups has resulted in the deaths of 230 jihadists over the past ten days. The rivalry has become so intense that Al Qaeda affiliates are killing each other more frequently than President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime forces.
Al Qaeda core leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, worrying his fellow ideologues were killing each other too much over power disputes, and not focusing enough on their shared enemies, has tried to bring ISIL’s focus back to Iraq. ISIL leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in response to al-Zawahiri’s request, “About your demand for us to withdraw from Syria, this will not happen and we repeat that this order is impossible.”
If ISIL succeeds in overtaking the eastern Syrian province, it will then hold control of over 500 miles of land. The territory governed by the Salafist Islamist group would stretch from the center of Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea.
On the other hand, ISIL’s chief competition, the al-Nusra Front, continues its dominance over much of southern Syria and the Golan Heights, which border Israel. Al-Nusra has also made advances towards securing the Jordanian border town of Deraa, which is seen as the epicenter for the initial revolution against current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.