Men look at a large black flag of al-Qaeda flying in Raqqa (30 September 2013)
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Syrian activists flee abuse in al-Qaeda-run Raqqa

Political activists in northern Syria have been forced to flee after attempting to defy the growing power of al-Qaeda in the region.

A citizens' protest movement has been challenging the jihadist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an affiliate of al-Qaeda, after its fighters attacked churches in the city of Raqqa.

But activists who have fled to Turkey told BBC Newsnight that many had been arrested, beaten or kidnapped by ISIS in retaliation.

Raqqa, a city currently sheltering nearly a million people, is now under the full control of the group.

One of the activists, photographer Mezar Matar, said: "I saw many people who had signs of lashes on their bodies after being released from an ISIS prison."

  • 15 Nov 2013
  • From the section World