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Published: Tuesday January 7, 2014 MYT 7:30:01 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 7, 2014 MYT 7:31:05 PM

Syria rebels kill 34 foreign fighters in northwest - monitor

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels have killed 34 foreign fighters from al Qaeda-linked groups in the northwest of the country over the last three days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

The killings in the Jabal al-Zawiya region appeared to be part of the wider confrontation by an alliance of rebels against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), across rebel-held territories of northern and eastern Syria.

Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said most of the 34 dead were ISIL fighters, along with some others from an allied group called Jund al-Aqsa. They were captured, separated from Syrian fighters, and killed, he said.

It was not possible to verify the report independently due to reporting restrictions in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been battling rebels in a nearly three-year conflict which has killed more than 100,000 people.

The latest infighting between Assad's foes erupted four days ago in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, fuelled by resentment against ISIL's radical Islamist agenda and a turf war near the Turkish border for strongholds which control supply routes into northern Syria.

The fighting has also spread to the eastern city of Raqqa, the only Syrian city under full rebel control.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights, another opposition monitoring group, said on Monday 71 ISIL fighters, 20 rival rebels and 26 civilians had been killed in the fighting to oust ISIL in Raqqa and other parts of Syria since Friday.

The fighting took place as ISIL fighters seized Sunni Muslim towns hundreds of miles away on the Euphrates in neighbouring Iraq, challenging a Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad which they see as allied, like Assad, to Shi'ite Iran.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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