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Ansar al Islam battles Kurds in Aleppo
Ansar al Islam's branch in Syria is fighting against Kurdish forces in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of Aleppo, the largest city in the country. The People's Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish faction in northern Syria, controls the nearby neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud.
Four photos released on Ansar al Islam's Twitter feed document the clashes. They are captioned: "Repulsion of a progression attempt from the PKK and Jaysh al Thuwar militias and regime forces towards Ashrafiyeh neighborhood in Aleppo."
The photos show jihadists taking up positions within a building and firing on Kurdish fighters. Ansar al Islam calls the Kurds "PKK" as the YPG is the military wing of the the Syrian Democratic Union Party, which is connected to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Jaysh al Thuwar, or Army of Revolutionaries, is a coalition of several former Free Syrian Army units and has reportedly joined the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed coalition. The Kurdish YPG is also a member of the SDF alliance.
Ansar al Islam is an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that was originally founded in northern Iraq in 2001. The main Iraqi faction of Ansar al Islam has suffered from defections to the Islamic State and has largely been forced underground. However, it continues to operate in Syria alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, as well as other jihadist and rebel groups in the north.
[Source: By Caleb Weiss, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, NJ, 19Feb16]
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