AMMAN, Jordan--A group of Islamist brigades, including the Al Qaeda-linked Nusrah Front, has taken over one of two official crossings on the 230-mile border between Syria and Jordan, according to a statement on one of the brigades' websites.
The Ahraar Al-Sham brigade, one of the largest armed rebel groups in Syria, announced that the Ramtha border crossing overlooking the city of Daraa in southern Syria was captured after more than four days of fighting by the "Operations Room of the Islamic Gathering," a coordinating body among various Islamist brigades. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 26 government soldiers were killed in the clashes.
Once a vibrant passage between the two countries, the crossing has been closed almost since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, with no people or goods passing through. Nevertheless, the takeover represents a potentially significant victory for the rebels in Daraa.
"Our primary aim was to destroy a large gathering of army and security elements," said Abu Mustafa, the nom de guerre of a battalion commander operating in southern Syria. "But," he continued, "we are considering approaching the Jordanian government so as to reopen the crossing in the future."
The victory comes on the heels of a move by two rebel groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, to secure control of the city of Azaz on the Turkish-Syrian border. It also marks the increasing prominence of fighters with Islamist leanings in Syria. Fifty groups issued a joint statement recently announcing the creation of Jaysh Al-Islam (the Army of Islam). The Western-backed Free Syrian Army and the Supreme Military Council are not involved with the new organization.
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