A confrontation between Jabhat al-Nusra and the residents of the Aleppo town of Atareb ended with Nusra members abandoning their checkpoints and returning to their headquarters Monday, after citizens burned tires and demonstrated for Nusra to leave.
Dozens of people demonstrated in an attempt to prevent the arrest of a local man, Muhammed Quijo, who reportedly traded insults with a Nusra fighter in Atareb that then escalated into gunfire, though it was not immediately clear who fired. Nusra fighters then positioned themselves throughout the town, leading residents to protest this act, said an eyewitness from the town who requested anonymity.
“The people of the town gathered en-masse to prevent the arrest of Muhammed Quijo, blocking the main street to prevent Nusra from advancing, in addition to retaking checkpoints Nusra had taken over from other rebel factions,” Muhammad al-Shafaie, an activist from Atareb, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
Quijo refused to turn himself in to the town’s independent Sharia Court at Nusra’s demand, which prompted Nusra to fan out across the town looking for him.
Relations between Nusra, which maintains a contingent of around 35 fighters in Atareb, and local residents are rocky due to the “extortionate” practices of Nusra, according to the anonymous Atareb resident, citing the Al-Qaeda affiliate’s imposition of taxes and plan to confiscate public land “for the service of Muslims.”
Atareb is also home to a large number of former members of the US-supported rebel faction Haraket al-Hazam, which was disbanded after many of its members were killed or captured by Nusra in March.
-Photo courtesy of Mujahid Al-Shami.