Whether Syrians like it or not, extremists flooding into Syria seek the Afghanization of the Levant. They simply want a radical emirate to replace Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to Reuters news agency, “huddled around a fire in a bombed-out building in Aleppo, foreign extremists say they are fighting for a radical Islamic state in Syria”.
In this context, it reported that ” if al-Assad [Syrian President] falls, they may turn on former allies to complete the struggle for a so-called “Islamic” caliphate”.
One Turkish fighter in the devastated Aleppo district of Karm al-Jabal expressed an unbending determination to achieve a state under the so-called “Sharia law” that worries the Syrians”.
“Syria…will be an “Islamic” and “Sharia” state and we will not accept anything else. Democracy and secularism are completely rejected,” said the fighter, who called himself Khattab.
Sporting a shaggy beard and with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, he warned anyone who might stand in the way. “We will fight them, even if they are among the revolutionaries or anyone else”, said Khattab, who left his job as a driver to fight for two years in Afghanistan before moving to Syria six months ago.
A member of the Jundollah rebel unit, Khattab has little knowledge of Arabic – he spoke in the rubble-strewn building through a Syrian translator – and refused to be filmed or photographed for fear of being identified back in Turkey.
In Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, the extremist’s influence is obvious. Many rebels drive through the shattered streets in cars emblazoned with black al-Qaeda flags carrying religious slogans.
This comes as these extremist group continue to coordinate with the so-called Free Syria Army. These extremists are known for their military skills – often honed in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Some, however, are new recruits in their holy war in a country they call Al-Sham. One such is Abu al-Harith, a stocky, fair, 27-year-old from Azerbaijan who spoke at a rebel base in Karm al-Jabal, a district so damaged it seems to have suffered an earthquake.
“This is my first time to embark on a fight”, said the young man, who wore a ski mask and had a black badge bearing a religious slogan sewn onto his green fatigues.
“All this talk about freedom, democracy and the secular state and a state of open freedoms like America and the European system – Islamists do not care about this talk at all”, said 25-year-old Abu Muawiyah, a skinny fighter who said he was from the Aleppo countryside and translated for the foreigners.
“There are some fighting factions like the Free Syrian Army, who have links to other countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and these countries have links with the controlling pole, which is the United States”, he said.
For his part, Abu Ahmed al-Libi, who fought to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, said he came to Syria with a band of 15 Libyans eight months ago.
Libi said he had trained 40 Syrians in Libya before bringing them over, and estimated the number of Libyan fighters in Syria at about 200.
The agency further reported that support for the “FSA” has eroded among some Aleppians due to some cases of looting. It also stated that major differences are recorded between armed opposition groups.
A commander of al-Farouq Brigades, one of Syria’s largest rebel groups, was shot dead on Wednesday in what rebel sources said may have been in revenge for the killing of an al-Nusra Front leader.
“We’re scared that after the fall of the regime, they will try to impose their [al-Nusra] views on the Syrian people. Their goal is for Syria to be a religious state and the Free Syrian Army is the opposite of that”, said a 24-year-old rebel fighter, who goes by the name Saqr Idlib.
Walking through a destroyed part of the al-Sukkari district in Aleppo, the fighter puffed worriedly on a cigarette: “We’re scared there’ll be problems by al-Nusra Front and other groups like them after the fall of the regime”.