Free Syrian Army fighters stand at a former base used by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), after the ISIL withdrew from the town of Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border, March 11, 2014. (REUTERS/Hamid Khatib)
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Azaz residents say ISIS 'disfigured the religion and the revolution'Syrian refugees in this border outpost were delighted to hear their hometown of Azaz had been liberated – not from Bashar Assad's troops but from Al-Qaeda fighters who subjected them to a regime that included torture and public beheadings.Activists described a feud inside Al-Qaeda when ISIS, led by Iraqi veteran Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, tried to take over Nusra, led by Abu Mohammad al-Golani, but was rebuffed by Ayman al-Zawahri, successor to Osama bin Laden as the head of Al-Qaeda.The Syrian fighters stayed with Golani and the Nusra Front, they said, but Azaz ended up under ISIS, known colloquially as Daesh. The ranks of ISIS were swelled by 500 jihadists broken out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and a further 700 freed from Seidnaya military jail near Damascus in what was seen in rebel and Western circles as an attempt by Assad to boost jihadist forces in Syria at the expense of mainstream rebels.
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