Leader of Syrian al-Qaida wing says aiming to take Damascus

Nusra Front leader Abu Mohamad al-Golani tells Al Jazeera that Syrian President "Assad's fall won't take a long time."

By REUTERS
May 27, 2015 23:53
2 minute read.
Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front

Members of al-Qaida's‏ Nusra Front [File]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

BEIRUT - The leader of al-Qaida's Syria wing Nusra Front said his group was aiming to capture Damascus and the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad would happen quickly.

Nusra Front has made gains in northwestern Syria alongside other insurgents in recent weeks, seizing the city of Idlib in March and the town of Jisr al-Shughour town last month, bringing them closer to the government-held coastline.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


It is the most powerful faction in Syria opposing both Assad and Islamic State, an offshoot of al-Qaida. Both have been hit by US-led air strikes.

"We will continue our focus on Damascus and on toppling this regime," Abu Mohamad al-Golani told news channel Al Jazeera in a rare interview aired on Wednesday. "I assure you, Assad's fall won't take a long time."

He also said Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, which backs Assad, knew its fate was linked to the Syrian leader and its efforts to save him were in vain

It was not clear where the interview took place and Golani's face was not shown. He sat on an ornate chair opposite the interviewer, his back to the camera.

He said to be safe, members of Syria's Alawite minority sect should renounce Assad and change their beliefs.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


"If they drop weapons, disavow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam, then they are our brothers," he said. Assad is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Golani, who said his group got no foreign funding, wore a checked shirt and a black scarf covering his head and shoulders. A black flag used by the group was placed on the table between him and the interviewer.

Golani added that Alawites were part of a sect that had "moved outside the religion of God and of Islam." He said Nusra Front, who are Sunni Muslims, were not at war with Christians.

He also condemned the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, which backs Assad. He said Hezbollah knew its fate was linked to the Syrian leader and its efforts to save him were in vain.

Nusra Front is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council. But it is more powerful than the mainstream groups favored by the United States and its Arab allies in the fight against both Islamic State and Assad's government.

US-led forces have carried out air strikes that have hit Nusra Front targets, saying they were targeting a specific al-Qaida-linked faction called "Khorasan Group".

Golani said there was no such thing as Khorasan Group in Syria. "We only heard about this name when the Americans said it," Golani said.

Apart from its recent battlefield gains in the northwest, Nusra Front is a major force in fighting against government forces and allied militia around the northern city of Aleppo.

It is also fighting in southern Syria, where the army and allied militia have begun a major offensive. Its fighters have frequently clashed with Islamic State in a number of locations.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
October 16, 2018
The curious case of ‘woke’ Ahmadinejad

By LAHAV HARKOV