Syria: Nusra front leader makes first prominent appearance as group announces break-up from al-Qaeda

The group's leader, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, made the announcement in a video that was the first public pronouncement to show his face.

By: Reuters | Beirut | Published: July 28, 2016 11:38:05 pm
syria, syrian civil war, nusra front, nusra front syria, nusra front al qaeda, al qaeda syria, us syria, russia syria, syria government, syrian forces, syrian rebels, syria news, middle east news, world news Nusra Front leader Mohammed al-Golani undated photo released online on Thursday, July 28, 2016 to announce a video message that the militant group is changing name, and claims it will have no more ties with al-Qaida. In a video aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera, al-Golani said the delinking from the terror network aimed to remove ‚”pretexts‚” by the US and Russia to strike other rebel groups while claiming they are targeting Nusra. Arabic reads, “coming soon, a video by the conqueror, Mohammed al-Golani.” (militant photo via AP)

The leader of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Nusra Front said on Thursday it was cutting its ties with al Qaeda to deny foreign powers including the United States and Russia a pretext to attack Syrians. Listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, the Nusra Front was excluded from a truce negotiated in February. Russia and the United States are discussing closer coordination to fight the militia.

The group’s leader, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, made the announcement in a video that was the first public pronouncement to show his face. “We have stopped operating under the name of Nusra Front and formed a new body … This new formation has no ties with any foreign party,” he said, giving the group’s new name as “Jabhat Fatah al Sham”.

He said the step was being taken “to remove the excuse used by the international community – spearheaded by America and Russia – to bombard and displace Muslims in the Levant: that they are targeting the Nusra Front, which is associated with al Qaeda”. Golani said the action would narrow differences with other rebel groups that are also fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al Zawahri, had earlier given his blessing to Nusra Front to break organisational ties with the global jihadist organisation in the interest of preserving its unity and continuing its fight in Syria. Golani thanked Zawahri for putting the interests of Muslims and the people of the Levant over organisational interests.

Russia has been actively supporting the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria and has assisted the government forces in the conflict through bombings in various bombings in rebel-held territories of the country.

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