Meet the jihadis fighting alongside Syria's rebels

The device was a copper-lined shaped charge that could penetrate armor. When the device ignited, the copper element superheated enough to pierce a tank. “It’s a very simple idea, but it works,” Ibrahim said, adding that the device was the work of the Jabhat’s engineering branch. “There’s a killing branch, I’m in the killing and chemical branch,” he said, explaining the chemical branch was responsible for obtaining the fertilizers and other components of the IEDS…

He was fighting because he wanted to “live in freedom.” His idea of freedom, however, was an Islamic state, free of “oppression” by members of President Assad’s privileged sect, the Alawites. “The Alawites can do what they want and we have no say, that’s why we are fighting, because we are oppressed by them,” he said. “We are nothing to them. They are the head, and we are nothing.”…

The Ahrar have also had run-ins with some locals. “A week ago, the Ahrar kidnapped a guy who sold liquor and destroyed his alcohol,” said Mohammad, a 20-something opposition activist. “We told the Ahrar ‘release him, or we will protest against you. We will forget about fighting the regime, we will fight you.” The man was released and a compromise reached; he could continue selling alcohol, but just not to fighters. “We agreed to this,” Mohammad said, “not for religious reasons, but because it made sense strategically.”