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Syrian Kurds Expel Radical Muslims From Town: Activist

July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian Kurdish fighters have expelled a group linked to al-Qaeda from their border town after clashes that left 11 people dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today.

The fighting pitted combatants from the Kurdish Defense Units against radical Islamists attached to the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which are both al-Qaeda affiliates, Rami Abdurrahman, founder of the U.K.-based Observatory, said in a phone interview. The confrontation began yesterday in Ras al-Ain, al-Hasaka Province, he said.

According to the Observatory, the conflict was sparked by an Islamist attack on a women’s patrol belonging to the Kurdish group. The Kurdish fighters forced the Islamists from the town today and the exchanges are continuing close to a checkpoint on the Turkish border, Abdurrahman said. At least nine Islamists died along with Kurdish fighters. Abdurrahman said the Kurds were trying to keep both Islamists and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad from their town.

Fighters from al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which seek to impose their extreme version of Islam in areas under their control, have been targeting other rebels, mostly the Free Syrian Army, the main rebel group fighting Assad. On July 11, they killed senior FSA commander Kamal Hamami at a checkpoint in the Turkmen mountains near the northern city of Latakia. Iraqi al-Qaeda and al-Nusra merged in April.

To contact the reporter on this story: Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut at dabunasr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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