Blue on blue: Al-Qaeda affiliate attacks Free Syrian Army
Syria is turning into a "splendid little war," as Al-Qaeda, finding the "secular" Free Syrian Army not religiously fanatical enough, launched an attack on FSA units on the Turkish border causing the government of Prime Minister Erdogan to close the border crossing temporarily.
Turkey has closed one of its border gates to Syria after an al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group clashed with units of the Arab- and Western-backed Free Syrian Army in the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish frontier, a Turkish official said on Thursday.
"The Oncupinar border gate has been closed for security reasons as there is still confusion about what is happening on the Syrian side. All humanitarian assistance that normally goes through the gate has ceased," the official told Reuters.
While Turkey says it normally operates an open door policy, allowing Syrian refugees to cross freely into its territory, from time to time it temporarily closes its border crossings following clashes near its frontier.
The Oncupinar crossing in Turkey's Kilis province sits opposite the Syrian Bab al-Salameh gate, and around 5 km (3 miles) from Azaz. The official said he was not aware of any clashes at the crossing itself, which fell into rebel hands last year.
The clashes in Azaz had now stopped and mediation efforts appeared to be under way, he said.
The emergence of al Qaeda-linked fighters along its 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria, within striking distance of Turkish territory, is a nightmare scenario for Ankara.
Turkey has been one of the strongest backers of the Syrian rebels, giving them shelter on its soil. It denies arming them, but fighters including militant Islamists have been able to cross its porous border into Syria.
Turkey says it does not favor any particular group in the opposition and has strongly denied accusations it has directly assisted more radical elements, especially in their fight against Kurdish rebels on Syria's northeastern border.
This is not the first time this has happened nor will it be the last. Al-Qaeda's goal is both the overthrow of Assad and the fracturing of Syria in order to create a failed state where terrorists can thrive. To that end, the terrorists will fight anyone and everyone to achieve chaos.
But hey! Let's wade into this disaster and help them along. What could go wrong?