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Thu Dec 19, 2013, 09:14 AM

Masked Army: Shadowy Jihadist Group Expands Rapidly in Syria

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/isis-shadowy-jihadist-group-expands-rapidly-in-syria-a-939561.html



A murderous Islamist group called ISIS is obstructing Syrian rebels in their battle against President Bashar Assad's regime. The Free Syrian Army seems barely able to put up a fight in the face of their brutal tactics.

Masked Army: Shadowy Jihadist Group Expands Rapidly in Syria
By Christoph Reuter
December 18, 2013 04:51 PM

The sender was unidentified, but the young engineer knew who the email was from as soon as he opened the attachment. Beneath a picture of the brutally mutilated corpse of Muhannad Halaibna, a civil rights activist known throughout the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, was a single sentence: "Are you sad now about your friend?"

Mere hours later, the engineer and 20 other members of the Syrian opposition -- doctors, city council members and activists -- escaped from Raqqa into Turkey. They weren't fleeing Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, but a new and terrible power that has no face and goes by many names. The official name of this al-Qaida branch, which has broken away from Osama Bin Laden's successors, is the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS). "Daaisch" is the most common abbreviation of the group's name in Syria. "But we call them the Army of Masks," says Basil, the engineer who fled the country, "because their men rarely show their faces. They dress in black, with their faces covered."

In addition to civil rights activist Halaibna, the group's thugs have kidnapped hundreds of others in Raqqa, where Assad's army was driven out back in March. The jihadists seized the chair of the city council, the heads of the civilian opposition, an Italian Jesuit and six European journalists. Anyone who opposes the ISIS fighters, or who is simply considered an unbeliever, disappears.

ISIS maintains four prisons for holding its hostages in this area alone. And Raqqa was only the beginning. In the last four months, the jihadist group, which was still essentially unknown in Syria at the start of this year, has seized control of several cities, as well as strategically important roads, oil fields and granaries.

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