Beirut | The head of Al-Nusra Front in Syria said his jihadist group was breaking ties with Al-Qaeda and changing its name, in remarks broadcast today by Al-Jazeera. Abu Mohamad al-Jolani said Al-Nusra would change its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Conquest of Syria in Arabic) and expressed his gratitude to the commanders of Al-Qaeda for having understood the need to break ties.
In a rare televised message, Jolani said the new group will have no links whatsoever with foreign parties. The announcement came a week after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they had agreed on concrete steps to save a failing Syria truce and tackle jihadist groups like Al-Nusra and the Islamic State group.
Jihadist sympathisers and observers have been speculating online about a possible split between Al-Nusra and the network founded by Osama bin Laden to which it pledged allegiance in 2013. Al-Qaeda prepared the ground for the announcement earlier Thursday in an online message.
We direct the leadership of Al-Nusra Front to go ahead with what preserves the good of Islam and the Muslims, and protects the jihad of the Syrian people, Ahmed Hassan Abu al-Khayr said in an audio message released online by Al-Nusra. We urge them to take the appropriate steps towards this matter, said Abu al-Khayr, who was identified as a deputy of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Nusra first emerged in January 2012, 10 months after Syria’s conflict began with anti-government protests that were brutally repressed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
It is Syria’s preeminent jihadist group, along with its key rival, the Islamic State group. Whatever Nusra does, its ultimate objective is to further embed itself into Syria’s revolution and secure its long-term future as a legitimate rebel group, analyst Charles Lister tweeted.
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