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Clashes between rival rebel factions, some affiliated with Al-Qaeda, leave at least 44 fighters dead
October 13, 201312:30PM ET
Clashes between rival rebel factions left at least 44 fighters dead in battles to control neighborhoods in the city of Aleppo, an activist group reported Saturday, in a sign that the Syrian opposition is becoming increasingly fractured, enabling fighters linked to Al-Qaeda to assume prominent roles in battle.
The report follows three days of fighting between Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and a rival group formerly known as Ghurabaa Al-Sham.
Of the dead, 14 belonged to ISIL, which was able to secure control of three neighborhoods in Aleppo, reported the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In an audio message on Friday, the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, urged fighters in Syria to "rise above organizational loyalties and party partisanship'' to unite and set up an Islamic state.
He suggested he would not impose unity, saying that "what you agree upon will also be our choice."
Two Al-Qaeda-linked groups have emerged among Syria’s rebel forces in the ongoing fight against the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. The first is commanded by a Syrian, the second by an Iraqi, but both are believed to be loyal to Zawahri.
Meanwhile, a child was killed and several people injured after two mortar shells hit near a Damascus hotel where international chemical-weapons inspectors and United Nations staff are staying, state media and a hotel guest said on Saturday.
The blasts in the upscale Abu Roumaneh area of the capital killed an eight-year-old girl and wounded 11 other people, reported state-owned news agency SANA.
A U.N. employee staying at the hotel said it did not appear that the building was affected by the explosions.
Syrian rebels routinely fire mortar shells from the outskirts of Damascus at city neighborhoods controlled by forces loyal to Assad.