Extremists pull out from Syrian bases
AL-QAEDA'S Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front, said yesterday that it is evacuating its bases and positions in the north-eastern province of Idlib, a day after United States-led strikes were launched against extremists.
Ahrar Al-Sham, a key Islamist rebel group allied with Al-Nusra, was also evacuating its positions in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
On Twitter, Al-Nusra said it had "evacuated the majority" of its bases near residential areas.
"Thousands of fighters from Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham have evacuated their bases in Idlib province," the observatory said.
The Britain-based group said Ahrar Al-Sham had also urged "civilians to keep their distance from bases" belonging to it.
The evacuations came a day after US air strikes hit a group of Al-Qaeda fighters in Aleppo province, on the border with Idlib.
Washington said the strikes targeted a cell in Al-Nusra called Khorasan, which was planning attacks against Western interests.
The strikes killed at least 50 militants, as well as eight civilians, said the observatory.
Activists and experts have cast doubt on the distinction between Khorasan and Al-Nusra, saying the two are one and the same, and both represent Al-Qaeda in Syria.
The strikes against the group on Tuesday came after raids by US forces and Arab allies against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in northern and eastern Syria.
While US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said yesterday that the US air strikes in Syria have had an "important impact", it is unclear if they have killed the head of Khorasan.
The US military yesterday confirmed it launched five more air strikes targeting ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the latest round of attacks on the militant group.
One strike hit Syria north-west of Al Qa'im along the border, US Central Command said in a statement. Two strikes landed west of Baghdad and two in the area south-east of Irbil in Iraq.
The latest strikes on Tuesday and yesterday destroyed two ISIS armed vehicles, eight other vehicles, a weapons cache and fighting positions, the statement said.
Various attack, bomber and fighter aircraft were used in the air strikes, said the statement.