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THE two largest Islamist groups in northern Syria have been slugging it out in a “battle of the jihadists” for control over positions close to the border with Turkey.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) fighters were reported to have stormed Isis positions near the town of Salqib late on Tuesday, with at least three members of the latter killed.
The groups have been at loggerheads for years, although both have been assisted by Turkey, which has used them as part of its war against Kurds in northern Syria.
HTS, an offshoot from al-Qaida, has tried to move away from its roots and rebrand itself with the support of Ankara. The Islamist group has been charged with facilitating Turkish logistics and military operations in northern Syria.
According to a Chatham House analysis this relationship has been mutually beneficial: HTS needs political cover both regionally and internationally to protect it from being targeted as a terrorist group.
“Turkey needs ties to an armed group with military and organisational discipline that is able to control the territory and that is not subordinate to any foreign power,” the analysis says.
The fighting continues at present.
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