September 19, 2013 - 11:37 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A Syrian activist group says al Qaeda-linked gunmen have captured a town near the Turkish border after heavy fighting with a rebel group.
According to the Associated Press, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant stormed the town of Azaz, forcing members of the Northern Storm Brigade to withdraw.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said Thursday, Sept 18, that the clashes broke out when ISIL fighters tried to detain a European doctor they accused of taking pictures of their positions in the area. The German doctor escaped and is in a safe location, Abdul-Rahman said.
Abdul-Rahman said three rebels and two jihadis were killed in the fighting that broke out Wednesday and continued until after midnight.
A surge of clashes in Syria's oil-producing northeast has killed dozens of rebels and Kurdish fighters last week.
Syrian Kurdish militants, particularly the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), have repeatedly clashed with opposition fighters led by al Qaeda-linked units in the region as government forces retreated over the past year.
The Kurdish PYD's military wing blamed al Qaeda-linked groups for the latest violence, saying fighters from the Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked a string of Kurdish villages in Hasaka province.
Heavy artillery and tanks were used, it said.
Estimates of the numbers killed varied. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 35 rebels and 13 Kurdish fighters had died over the last two days.
Rebels accuse their Kurdish opponents of collaborating with Assad's forces to secure autonomy - although activists said disputes over resources and territory were a bigger factor in recent clashes.