AMMAN, Jordan — The main border crossing between Syria and Jordan remained closed and chaotic on Friday, with insurgents — including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and Western-backed rebel factions — wrangling for control two days after they seized and looted the crucial gateway.
The power struggle at the Nasib crossing, coupled with Syrian government airstrikes that hit nearby on Thursday, is the latest cross-border spillover from Syria’s four-year war, and it has led to new tensions between Jordan and Syria.
Adding to the chaos, at least 10 Lebanese truck drivers were being held by Nusra, Lebanon’s minister for the economy, Alain Hakim, told Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, and witnesses said as many as 22 were being held either for ransom or as bargaining chips. Jordan’s interior minister, Hussein Majali, said the border would remain closed indefinitely until the authorities could guarantee security there.
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The chaos on the border was a blow to Syria’s government, which lost the last crossing it had still controlled along the 230-mile border. But it could also be embarrassing for Jordan, the United States and other allies involved in a covert program to train insurgents who, they insist, are relatively nationalist and moderate.
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By The New York Times
Those fighters, calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, work out of an operations room in Jordan and receive some assistance from the United States, which lists Nusra as a terrorist organization. But in practice, they often cooperate on the battlefield.
Asaad al-Zoubi, a former Syrian Army officer and the Free Syrian Army’s coordinator for the southern front, admitted in an interview that some members of army-affiliated battalions had taken part in the looting, but he insisted that they had not coordinated with Nusra.
“I admit there was chaos and looting even by members of the Free Syrian Army, but we are working on returning some of the stolen goods and equipment,” Mr. Zoubi said Friday.
He said that factions linked to the Free Syrian Army had seized the border crossing without Nusra fighters, who rushed in later to take credit. Antigovernment activists in the area have said that a deal was made with Nusra to remain in the background.
Videos on social media sites showed various groups celebrating the crossing’s seizure, including Nusra as well as groups linked to the Free Syrian Army. Other videos showed men unloading trucks and cars and speeding away with goods.
“I was shocked — the building is completely empty,” said Ammar, an antigovernment activist, after visiting the area. “There are no more tables, computers, cables. They even looted the tiles and the plugs. This is the people’s property.”
He added: “After the liberation I was so happy, but after I saw this I wish the place were still with the regime. The building was like a pretty woman who suddenly aged.”
After a second visit on Friday, he said Nusra and Free Syrian Army groups were controlling different parts of the complex, with a Free Syrian Army group called the Southern Falcons objecting to Nusra’s efforts to seize control of the crossing and its spoils. He said a Nusra fighter told him they were holding 22 drivers, not for ransom, but as a way to put pressure on the Free Syrian Army “to let Nusra run the whole place.”
Main Syria-Jordan Crossing Under Insurgent Assault – NYTimes.com.