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“They saw these guys cross their doorsteps between 20, and now they saw them with their own eyes, not just coming back but finding a fairly open reception,” he said.
“Nobody from the government challenged them.”By late 2012, when the United States labeled the Nusra Front a terrorist organization, the group had turned into an effective anti-regime fighting force.
Assad claims that his domestic political opposition are all terrorists intent on destroying the Syrian state and regularly appeals to the international community for help in battling terrorism.
But the regime in fact facilitated the buildup and expansion of the real terror group in Syria.
The conflicting instructions sheds light on the little-known relationship between the Assad regime and the Islamic State.
“The regime knew about their arrival and knew they were in the countryside, moving among villages.
It didn’t target them,” said Nabeel Dendal, who’s from eastern Syria and defected from the government in June 2012.“In some cases, we would submit a name” to higher command and say, ‘this person is in my area,’” said al Nasr, the former intelligence official from northeastern Syria.
In its Raqqa sanctuary, ISIS has operated like a state-within-a-state.
It introduced its extreme version of Islamic law, staged public executions, and persecuted the Christian population until it fled.