May 30, 2014 / 8:04 AM / in 3 years

Al Qaeda renegade group kills 15 Kurds in northern Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - An al Qaeda renegade group killed 15 Kurdish people, seven of them children, in an attack on a village in northern Syria, a monitoring group and a photographer at the scene said on Friday.

A man comforts a woman after activists said people were killed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in a village near Ras al-Ain city in Hasakah province May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Massoud Mohammed

The attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was disowned by al Qaeda’s central command earlier this year, occurred during a six-month-old ISIL offensive against Syrian Kurds and various rebel groups that has weakened the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad and killed thousands.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a freelance photographer said the attack took place on Thursday near the Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain after militants stormed a village.

Ras al-Ain, 600 km (375 miles) from Damascus, is part of Syria’s northeastern oil-producing province of Hasaka, home to many of the million-strong Syrian Kurdish minority.

In one Reuters photograph, six bodies could be seen, including three young boys. A middle-aged woman held one of the bodies.

ISIL was jettisoned by al Qaeda’s leadership after it fell into territorial and power struggles with Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, who comprise al Qaeda’s official Syria wing.

Syria, tugged by various regional conflicts, has frayed into a patchwork of warring ethnic and sectarian pockets, and fighters from neighboring Iraq and Lebanon have joined both sides of the civil war.

Syrian Kurds have largely shunned the anti-Assad insurgency because they fear the mostly Sunni Muslim Arab rebels will ignore their aspirations for autonomy in any post-Assad era.

Around 160,000 people have been killed in a conflict now in its fourth year. Divided world powers have fueled both sides with weapons and diplomatic backing.

Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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