Syrian Rebel group pledges loyalty to al-Qaida

Nusra Front claims official connection with al-Qaida, distances itself from Iraqi group.

Nusra Front Fighters on front line 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Nusra Front Fighters on front line 370
(photo credit: reuters)
The al-Nusra Front, a Syrian Sunni rebel group, pledged allegiance to al- Qaida leader Ayman al- Zawahri and distanced itself from a recently announced merger with its Iraq branch.
“The sons of Nusra Front renew their pledge [of allegiance] to the Sheikh of Jihad Ayman al- Zawahri and declare obedience,” al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Muhammad al- Golani said in an audio recording posted online Wednesday.
This announcement came a day after the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said the two groups would unite and be called the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Golani denied the union with the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida, saying he had heard about it from the media. He said that his group would remain independent of the Iraqi group but would be loyal to Zawahri.
Golani did admit a close relationship with the Iraqi branch, having fought with them in Iraq before coming to Syria, according to a report in The Washington Post.
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The Syrian government and its supporters jumped on the news since it has been claiming that terrorists and al-Qaida fighters dominate the opposition.
This “proves that this opposition was never anything other than a tool used by the West and by terrorists to destroy the Syrian people,” AP quoted the Syrian state news agency as saying.