BEIRUT, Lebanon — The tensions had been simmering for months in the
northern Syrian town of Saraqib. Civilian antigovernment activists had
complained of rebel fighters who needlessly destroyed a milk factory
and treated residents disrespectfully. A growing contingent of jihadist
fighters from the ideologically extreme and militarily formidable Nusra
Front was suspicious of the activists’ secular, nonviolent agenda.
On Thursday, mistrust erupted into confrontation. Masked men believed to be with Al Nusra raided the headquarters of two secular civilian grass-roots organizations — setting in motion one of the most dramatic tests yet of the makeshift system of local governance that civilians and fighters have established in Saraqib, a rebel-held town.
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