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January 06, 2014 AT 6:45 AM
Rival Islamist rebel groups fought in the Syrian city of Raqqa on Monday, residents said, as local fighters tried to drive out a foreign-led al Qaeda affiliate which has also seized towns across the border in Iraq. Activists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad said dozens of Syrian members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had changed sides to join other Sunni Islamist factions which have taken advantage of a local backlash against the ISIL and the foreign al Qaeda jihadists prominent among its commanders. Syrian fighters from Islamist factions Ahrar al-Sham and the Nusra Front, another al Qaeda affiliate, had surrounded the main ISIL base in central Raqqa, activists said.