Syrian Nusra Front says ending ties with al-Qaeda

Jul 29, 2016, 12:53 AM EDT
Syrian rebels
(Source: Global Panorama/flickr)

Syrian jihadist group Nusra Front announced that it has split from al-Qaeda and changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The group’s leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani said in a recorded message that the move intended to remove the excuse used by the international community to bombard Syrians. The U.S. state department said that the announcement could just be a rebranding exercise, adding that it would continue to view the jihadist group as a terrorist organization.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “We judge a group by -- by what they do, not by what they call themselves.”

Nusra Front’s decision to break away from al-Qaeda had prior approval from the global jihadist network, writes the BBC. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said that the brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organizational links.

The Nusra Front, one of the most powerful rebel forces in Syria’s multi-sided civil war, was excluded from February’s cessation of hostilities agreement. Analysts say the acceptance of renamed Nusra Front by other Islamist groups fighting in Syria could change the “strategic alignment” on the ground, notes Reuters.

Julani’s announcement drew mixed reaction from the opposition in Syria, with some saying that it would be premature to predict the consequences of the split, reports Al Jazeera. A majority of the opposition activists remained skeptical whether the move would have any practical impact.