(Associated Press) When the United States opened its aerial campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria this week, its first salvo also hit an al-Qaeda cell it says was planning terror attacks — a move that has injected more chaos into the conflict and could help Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Amid fears they could be targeted next, two rebel factions already have evacuated their bases, and residents in areas under the control of other Islamic brigades cower at home, wondering whether their districts will be hit.
While al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, is considered a terrorist group by the United States, among the Syrian opposition it has a degree of support and respect because its fighters are on the front lines alongside other rebels battling Assad's forces.
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To them, the US strikes, which hit several Nusra Front facilities and killed dozens of its fighters, appeared to signal an American move to take out any rebel faction that adheres to an Islamist ideology — a large segment of the rebellion against Assad.