Fight against al-Qeada group moves to central Syria, activists say

Photo: Fight against al-Qeada group moves to central Syria, activists say / Arab World

Syrian rebels extended on Thursday their fight against an al-Qaeda-linked group to the central province of Homs, activists said.

"The fighting between the opposition forces, led by the Free Syrian Army, and mainly foreign fighters from the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) is taking place in the Homs area of Saan," Omar Homsi, an activist based in Homs, said.

The fighting is concentrated on the outskirts of the area where some ISIL fighters are believed to be hiding, he added, dpa reported.

Clashes pitting opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against ISIL extremists have continued for a week in northern and eastern Syria, leaving dozens dead.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that the jihadist group had been driven out of the northern city of Aleppo.

A series of attacks by ISIL on rival rebel groups in recent months, as well as repeated kidnappings of opposition activists, has led to widespread anger against the group, whose formation was announced in April by Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Syrian conflict, which erupted nearly three years ago, has seen several radical groups impose strict Islamic rule in areas under their control.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in charge of dismantling Syria's chemical stockpiles, said Thursday that destroying the country's chemical weapons would cost between 35 and 40 million euros.

"The operation is not cheap at all ... but we hope it will save lives in the future," Sigrid Kaag told the Dubai-based broadcaster Al Arabiya.

Syria agreed to dispose of its chemical weapons by June under a Russian-US deal.

The first batch of Syria's chemical weapons left on Tuesday the Syrian port of Latakia on a Danish ship for destruction.

The December 31 deadline for shipping the first chemical consignment out of Syria was missed.

Reasons for the delay were "war, bad weather and bureaucracy," according to an OPCW official.

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