NPR Story
12:40 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Fighting Rages On Turkey's Border With Syria

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 1:54 pm

The civil war in Syria is a confusing mix of rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, al-Qaida aligned fighters from the group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and the regime’s army.

That’s especially true on Syria’s border with Turkey. The BBC’s James Reynolds reports from the border on that conflict.

Reporter

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Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Ahead of that scheduled peace conference in Geneva, there's been an increase in the fighting in Syria. More than a thousand people have been killed in the last few days in battles in the northern part of the county, along the border with Turkey. The fighting is between rebels and the forces loyal to President Assad. But the rebels are also battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a group linked to al-Qaida. The BBC's James Reynolds reports.

JAMES REYNOLDS: Here, right next to the border, you can see past the refugee camp and into the towns and villages of Syria itself. For the last two and a half years, the people of Syria have been fighting one war - that between Bashar al-Assad and the opposition. But now they find themselves facing a second war - that between the rebels themselves. And it looks like this second fight may be as brutal as the first.

ABU AZZAM: (Foreign language spoken)

REYNOLDS: In a video posted online, Abu Azzam reads out a statement to his fellow Free Syrian Army fighters.

AZZAM: (Foreign language spoken)

REYNOLDS: For almost three years, these men have fought against one enemy: the Syrian government. But now, the FSA and Islamist rebels are facing a second war against rival rebels from al-Qaida's ISIS movement. I spoke to Abu Azzam on the Turkish side of the border. Have you fought against ISIS personally?

AZZAM: (Through translator) I fought in many areas before. ISIS tried to kill me, and I have to protect myself. They tried to kill me with a car bomb.

REYNOLDS: Is it more difficult to fight Assad or more difficult to fight ISIS?

AZZAM: (Through translator) For us, ISIS

REYNOLDS: It's more difficult to fight ISIS?

AZZAM: (Through translator) It's not a military thing. When we fight the regime, we are prepared to die. We are happy. But when we fight ISIS, we're fighting our fellow believers. But we have to protect ourselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUN SHOTS)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

REYNOLDS: In recent days, rival rebels have fought heavy battles.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Allahu akbar, allahu akbar, allahu akbar.

REYNOLDS: Pictures from the Syrian town of Markaz show an FSA fighter running with his movement's flag towards a building taken back from ISIS. Hassan Sheikh Omar runs a hospital across the border, in the Syrian town of Darkush. On Monday, he started treating the victims of an ISIS car bombing against other rebels.

HASSAN SHEIKH OMAR: (Through translator) We were surprised. Several days ago, ISIS and the rebels started fighting. We treated about 70 injured people after the car bomb. Our staff struggled to cope.

REYNOLDS: In Syria, an ISIS convoy travels in daylight, displaying its black flag. The movement promises not to surrender. It's warned other rebels to get rid of their checkpoints or face further attacks. Syria's wars are multiplying.

YOUNG: The BBC's James Reynolds.

And we're continuing to get response to President Obama's speech today on the NSA. Libertarian Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican said, President Obama suggested changes, like having the private sector hold metadata instead of the government and create public advocates to monitor the FISA court that signs off on surveillance. But these changes amount to the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration. The Fourth Amendment requires an individualize warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and emails, Rand Paul said. We'll continue to get response to the president's both defense of and suggested changes to the NSA all day on NPR.

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