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Syria Rebels Seize al-Qaida Base in Aleppo

Syrian activists say rebels in the northern city of Aleppo have seized control of a hospital that had been used as a base by their al-Qaida-linked rivals, as infighting among groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad raged into a sixth day.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a loose coalition of moderate and Islamist rebel groups took control of the base Wednesday after a series of strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant .

The jihadist group's headquarters in Aleppo was overrun by opposition fighters, who reportedly freed dozens of prisoners held there.



One of the triumphant fighters gave this account:

"Today, January the 8th, Alhamdulillah. We have liberated the building of the ISIL which claims that it is Islamic state and we have found around 70 dead prisoners, including journalists, and from the FSA from all brigades and divisions. These people claim to be Muslims, but they don't represent Islam."



The developments came after ISIL's spokesman, known as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, issued a defiant message late Tuesday urging his forces to crush the rival rebels.

Adnani also warned that ISIL had "declared and begun a war" against the mainstream opposition Syrian National Coalition and the military command of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.



Earlier, al-Qaida's official affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, called for a truce among rebel factions, saying the infighting only benefits Mr. Assad's government.

The al-Nusra Front is largely made up of Syrians, whereas foreign fighters dominate ISIL.

The Observatory said the clashes since Friday among the Syrian rebel factions have killed at least 385 people, including 56 civilians.

In Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition postponed a decision on whether to attend U.N.-hosted peace talks involving the Assad government later this month in Switzerland.

Amid fierce debate, the coalition's general assembly decided to delay making a decision on participation until January 17, just five days before the conference.

Also Wednesday, the global chemical weapons watchdog urged Syria to intensify efforts to get its stockpile of raw materials for poison gas and nerve agents to the port of Latakia, so it can be shipped out of the country and destroyed.

The appeal by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was made a day after the first batch of toxic chemicals - believed to be precursors for mustard gas and sarin - was loaded onto a Danish cargo vessel and shipped toward international waters.

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