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Syrian rebels, Islamic radicals take full control of army base

Jabhat al-Nusra helps rebels capture Sheik Suleiman base from Syrian army.

Syria islamic extremists army base 121112Enlarge
Rebel fighters sit at a gun position in the Sheikh Suleiman base, some 15 miles northwest of Aleppo, on December 9, 2012. Radical Islamic rebels seized large swathes of the Syrian military base as they consolidated their control over territory in the north near the Turkish border, an AFP journalist said. Sheikh Suleiman sprawls over nearly 500 acres of rocky hills. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Islamic radicals helped Syrian rebels capture a large military base near Aleppo today, resulting in 35 soldiers killed.

Members of Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq, helped rebels wrest control of the Sheik Suleiman base from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, The Associated Press reported.

The northern base is near Aleppo, and fighting for control of it began Sunday.

Fighting ended when rebels captured a main compound and warehouses on the sprawling base, Al Jazeera said.

As many as 64 government troops were injured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the media.

Al-Nusra appears to be tipping the balance toward the rebels in their fight to overthrow Assad’s long-standing dictatorship, the AP said.

That troubles Western nations who fear radical interference in Syria and Al Qaeda hijacking the uprising for its own gains.

As a result, the United States put al-Nusra on a blacklist today as international leaders prepare to meet again to discuss the raging civil war, AFP reported.

In an interview today on the ABC News program "20/20," President Barack Obama announced that the US had decided to officially recognize the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, the New York Times reported.

More from GlobalPost: United States recognizes Syrian opposition coalition

“What is important is to understand that extremists fighting the Assad regime are still extremists and they have no place in the political transition that will come,” a US State Department official told AFP. “Extremists should not dictate that political transition.”

By labeling al-Nusra terrorists, the US can freeze any American assets it might have and block Americans from supporting the group, Reuters reported.

While al-Nusra is effective, it’s also indiscriminate and often snares civilians in its traps, detractors say.

It’s not afraid to use car bombs and is responsible for 40 suicide attacks in Syria, Reuters said.

“I don’t believe most Syrians want these radical groups,” one man inside Syria told Reuters. “We are a conservative people, but not extremists. I think

Syrians have accepted them because they feel they have no other choice.”

More from GlobalPost: Syria, the siege of Damascus

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/121211/syrian-rebels-islamic-radicals-take-full-control-army