The Syrian Observator for Human Rights, which tracks Syria’s civil war, today published the video above that shows members of the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s affilate in Syria, raising the black flag of jihad in an Aleppo neighborhood. From the SOHR’s Facebook page:
Aleppo province: Islamist activists in the Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo have taken down the Syrian revolution flags and threw them to the ground, putting in their place the flag of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Local civil activists have voiced much anger as a result.
The raising of al Qaeda’s flag in Aleppo is not surpising. By early 2013, the Al Nusrah Front had imposed sharia, or Islamic law, in Aleppo. The Nusrah Front is also in control of vast areas of eastern Syria, including Raqqah, a provincial capital, and has imposed sharia there as well.
The video of the Al Nusrah Front raising its flag appears just two days after al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri again implored Muslims to wage jihad in Syria. From Zawahiri’s speech, which was released on jihadist forums and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group:
O lions of Islam in the Levant of garrison and jihad: There is hope to bring back Palestine, which was usurped from us 65 years ago, with your blessed jihad. So, O Ummah of Islam and its free and honorable people, if you want the Caliphate to return, then deploy to the Levant. If you want to establish Shariah-based governance, then deploy to the Levant. If you to liberate Palestine, then deploy to the Levant. If you want to extirpate the corrupt rulers, then deploy to the Levant. If you want to resist America, then deploy to the Levant. And if you want to stand against the Iranian Safavid expansion, then deploy to the Levant. Deploy with yourselves, monies, experiences and knowledge.
Make no mistake: Syria has become a prime front for al Qaeda. The Al Nusrah Front was estimated by the US government to have had more than 10,000 fighters at the end of last year; this number doesn’t include the more than 3,000 Free Syrian Army fighters who have defected to the Al Nusrah Front as of the beginning of May. And it doesn’t include the Muhajireen Army, which is led by a Chechen commander and is closely allied to the Al Nusrah Front.
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