Al-Qaida linked group doubles size in Syria

Al Nusra Front mushrooms to 1,000 fighters; new recruits returning to Syria after sojourning in Iraq, Turkish daily 'Hurriyet' reports.

Jabhat al-Nusra fighters 370 (photo credit: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)
Jabhat al-Nusra fighters 370
(photo credit: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)
The al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front in Syria doubled its members from around 300- 400 jihadists to 1,000 as Syrian fighters in Iraq have returned to their country, according to a report on Thursday in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The report claims that many of the returning fighters were originally sent to Iraq by Syrian President Bashar Assad to promote his regime’s interests.
One of the reasons that Syrian jihadists are returning to Syria is that the US designation of the al-Nusra group as a terrorist organization has increased its popularity to jihadists, according to the report. The Syrian fighters have been returning to the country in small numbers so as not to draw international attention.
Turkey and the Syrian opposition group, The Syrian National Coalition, tried to convince the US not to label the group as a terrorist organization, the report states.
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Meanwhile, there were reports this week by McClatchy of fighting between another opposition group, the Farouq Battalions, and al- Nusra. Four people were reported killed on Sunday in the fighting, which illustrates the divisions in the Syrian opposition, even between Islamist groups that have some ideological similarities.
The Syrian opposition recently became more divided after Ghassan Hitto was chosen to be the interim prime minister, over the objections of parts of the opposition.