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Syria's Kurds prepare to battle al-Qaida

BEIRUT -- A powerful Kurdish militia said yesterday it is mobilizing against al-Qaida-linked rebels in northeastern Syria after a Kurdish opposition leader was killed in the area.

The fight between the Kurds and the extremists has become a war within a war in Syria's oil-rich region. Clashes between Kurdish gunmen and members of al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant over the past weeks left dozens of gunmen dead from both sides.

The fighting claimed a prominent casualty yesterday, as a car bomb killed Kurdish leader Issa Hisso, said the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the most powerful faction of the ethnic group in the region.

Hisso opposed and was imprisoned in the past by President Bashar Assad's regime. He also spoke out against radical Islamic groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Both groups have gained influence in the opposition after leading several battles.

Though no group claimed responsibility for Hisso's slaying, suspicion fell on the al-Qaida-linked organizations. Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for the party, said fighters hoped to clear the groups out of Kurdish areas.

"The military units have declared mobilization," he said. "The jihadi forces or forces of darkness have been attacking Kurdish areas so it is normal that there be military and political mobilization.

Meanwhile yesterday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a car bomb went off in the town of Maabadeh in Hassakeh province. It said the blast wounded some people and was followed by deployment of Kurdish gunmen in the area.

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