A U.S.-led coalition, along with Russian-backed Syrian troops, is driving ISIS from eastern Syria. Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press, an al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition – which may be planning to attack the western region of the country – is gaining control over Idlib, in northwestern Syria.
ISIS has lost almost all the control it once held in Syria and Iraq, including in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. As ISIS militants flee the U.S. coalition, al-Qaida may stand to gain more fighters.
Over several nights in September, some 10,000 men, women and children fled areas under Islamic State control, hurrying through fields in northern Syria and risking fire from government troops to reach a province held by an al-Qaida-linked group.
For an untold number of battle-hardened jihadis fleeing with the civilians, the escape to Idlib province marked a homecoming of sorts, an opportunity to continue waging war alongside an extremist group that shares much of the Islamic State’s ideology — and has benefited from its prolonged downfall.
Sources report that al-Qaida members of the Levant Liberation Committee have vouched for some of the fleeing ISIS fighters whom they knew before the two groups split, approximately four years ago, and allowed them to join.
The sources spoke anonymously because “they still visit the area and fear reprisals from the jihadis.”
“Al-Qaida will welcome ISIS members with open arms, those … [battle-hardened] with potent field experience,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of “ISIS: A History.”
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