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Al-Qaeda merges with ISIL at Syria-Iraq border town

Al-Qaeda's Syrian offshoot issued a loyalty pledge on Wednesday to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at a tinderbox town on the Iraqi border, opening the way for ISIL to take control of both sides of the border at Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq.

BEIRUT: Al-Qaeda's Syrian offshoot issued a loyalty pledge on Wednesday to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at a tinderbox town on the Iraqi border, a monitor said.

The merger is significant as it opens the way for ISIL to take control of both sides of the border at Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

ISIL -- which aspires to create an Islamic state that straddles Iraq and Syria -- has spearheaded a lightning jihadist offensive that has captured swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad this month.

After months of clashes between the two sides, Al-Qaeda's official Syrian arm the Al-Nusra Front "pledged loyalty to ISIL" in Albu Kamal, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

"The pledge comes amid advances by ISIL in Deir Ezzor province" in eastern Syria on the Iraqi border, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

An ISIL jihadist confirmed the reports on Twitter, and posted a photograph showing an Egyptian Al-Nusra Front commander shaking hands with a ISIL leader of Chechen origin.

Although both ISIL and the Al-Nusra are rooted in Al-Qaeda, the two have been rivals for much of the time that ISIL has been involved in Syria's civil war since spring last year.

"They are rivals, but both groups are jihadist and extremists. This move will create tension now with other rebel groups, including Islamists, in the area," said Abdel Rahman.

An opposition activist in Albu Kamal told AFP via the Internet that "there is a lot of tension, and the situation is only going to get worse."

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