Al Qaeda leaves east Syria strongholds to Islamic State

Photo: Al Qaeda leaves east Syria strongholds to Islamic State
 / Arab World

Fighters from al Qaeda's Nusra Front withdrew from two towns in eastern Syria on Thursday, leaving most of the border province of Deir al-Zor under the control of advancing forces of the Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said the Nusra Front pulled out of Mayadin and Shuhail, the group's regional stronghold, while local tribal fighters had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which has also swept through Sunni Muslim provinces in Iraq, Reuters reported.

The Observatory, a British-based monitoring group, said the Islamic State, previously called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now controls an area of Syria five times the size of neighboring Lebanon.

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