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.
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 neighbouring 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 fuelled both sides with weapons and diplomatic backing.
Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Mark Heinrich