Jihadists have begun a new attempt to establish an Islamic state they can control in the Syria-Iraq border area, AFP reported Wednesday, citing rebels, activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Their name is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," said activist and citizen journalist Abdel Salam Hussein, according to the report. "Their goal is to link together the two areas [Syria, Iraq] to set up their state and then to continue spreading," said activist and citizen journalist Abdel Salam Hussein.
The Islamic State group, known as ISIL or ISIS, wants to control Deir al-Zor, the energy-rich province bordering Iraq, and suppress the Al Qaida-linked Nusra Front. The current effort could mark a comeback of sorts for the group, whose longtime aim of controlling parts of Syria and Iraq was undermined by a major January offensive by rival Islamist rebels.
Since February, ISIL has deployed 3,000 fighters to Deir al-Zor, many of them Europeans, Tunisians and Saudis, AFP quoted rebel spokesman Omar Abu Layla as saying.
Activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence is escalating in the region, the French wire service reported. It said there have been increased car bombings as well as daily battles between ISIL rebels and Nusra fighters.
ISIL is expanding, said the watchdog group's director, Rami Abdel Rahman.
"They are pressing their bid by pushing tribes to swear oaths of loyalty to them, and by fighting rival factions in an attempt to ensure they emerge the strongest," he told AFP. "ISIL have oil, money and weapons."