Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate and its allies have repulsed an assault by militant rivals on a town on the Iraqi border in fighting that killed 86 people, a monitoring group said.
Sixty of the dead were fighters of al-Nusra Front or its extremist allies killed pushing back their Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rivals from districts of al-Bukamal they had captured early Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse the militants regained full control of al-Bukamal after reinforcements poured in.
ISIL withdrew to the T2 oil site, 60 kilometers (35 miles) Southwest of the town and where a Syria-Iraq pipeline runs, he said, after executing seven fighters of a rival insurgent brigade.
The clashes have prompted soldiers on the Iraqi side of the border to reinforce their positions.
The border crossing itself on Syria’s side remains in the hands of the mainstream militant Free Syrian Army, said a rebel chief and an Agence France Presse reporter on the Iraqi side who saw the FSA flag flying over it.
With their attack on al-Bukamal, ISIL fighters wanted to link up with their comrades over the border in Iraq, said Abdel Rahman.
Iraqi troops put up blast walls and sand berms on their side of the crossing as a precaution, the correspondent reported.
Al-Bukamal has been under the control of fighters opposed to the Syrian government since November 2012, but al-Nusra and its allies forced out former ISIL allies in heavy fighting in late February.