Wednesday, January 26th | 25 Shevat 5782

August 12, 2016 3:46 am

Syrian Terrorist Group Rebrands to Ensure Survival

avatar by Abha Shankar

A Syrian soldier near Damascus. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Syrian soldier near Damascus. Photo: Wikipedia.

Jabhat al-Nusra’s July 28 announcement of its new name and avatar, the Fateh al-Sham Front (“The Victory in Al-Sham Front”), does not mean that the terrorist group has formally split ties with Al Qaeda, an Israeli intelligence report warns.

Jabhat al-Nusra (also known as the Nusra Front) pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2013.

In a video aired first on Al Jazeera, Abu Mohammad al-Julani announced “complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra,” and said his group “has no affiliation to any external entity,” signaling a split from Al Qaeda. The move is designed to make it difficult for the US-led coalition and Russia to carry out air strikes against the terrorist group, the report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) said.

The US and Russia recently agreed to cooperate in fighting against the al-Nusra Front in Syria.

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Fateh al-Sham may find it easier to collaborate with other Syrian rebel organizations fighting to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. Other rebel groups were unwilling to collaborate with Jabhat al-Nusra for fear of becoming targets of airstrikes because of the terror group’s affiliation with Al Qaeda.

But the split seems more cosmetic, the ITIC report said, noting that “Fateh al-Sham Front continues to adhere to Al-Qaeda’s Salafist-jihadi ideology (as reflected in the charter published by the Fateh al -Sham front).”

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to have blessed the move from Jabhat al-Nusrah to Fateh al-Sham. During his announcement, al-Julani praised and thanked Al Qaeda leaders for their support. “Your blessed leadership constituted and still constitutes a model for preferring the interests of the Muslims over the interests of each individual organization,” a translation of the announcement read.

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