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New Syrian rebel coalition says it is fighting Assad and al-Qaida

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- A coalition of Syrian rebel groups say they are fighting both the regime of President Bashar Assad and al-Qaida.

The groups proclaimed the Syrian Rebels Front after meeting in Istanbul, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported Thursday. The front's goal is "to overthrow the al-Assad regime and protect the people and the country," the statement said.

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The Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army and 14 other groups are involved. Col. Qassim Saad Eddine, speaking for the council, said the coalition will be the nucleus of a new Syrian Army.

Eddine said al-Qaida declared war on the rebels in July when an affiliated group killed Kamal Hamami, a senior FSA leader. Al-Qaida militants have been fighting against Assad with the stated goal of creating an Islamist state in Syria.

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