Five groups, including al Qaeda’s rebranded branch, have announced the creation of a new group in Syria. The move comes after weeks of reported disagreements and clashes between the insurgents in northern Syria.
Jund al Aqsa, a US and UN designated terrorist organization, was subsumed by al Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch in early October. The group had deep ties to al Qaeda’s fundraising network in the Gulf prior to the merger.
Fifteen years after 9/11, Al Qaeda remains a threat to the West despite not carrying out a large-scale attack in years. The group is waging insurgencies in several countries and is far larger than it was on 9/11.
A transcript of Abu Muhammad al Julani’s remarks yesterday shows that his statement has been misconstrued in the press.
Abu Muhammad al Julani announced that Al Nusrah Front has been rebranded as Jabhat Fath Al Sham. Many have read into Julani’s statement as a formal disassociation with al Qaeda. But Julani didn’t actually say that, as his language was intentionally ambiguous. While sitting next to a longtime al Qaeda veteran from Egypt, Julani did not explicitly say that his group has broken from al Qaeda.
The Al Nusrah Front confirmed today that Abu Firas al Suri, a veteran jihadist who served al Qaeda since the 1980s, was killed in a US airstrike on Apr. 3. A Pentagon spokesman recently explained that Al Nusrah has “ties” to al Qaeda, but this is not an adequate description of the relationship. Al Nusrah is one of al Qaeda’s regional branches and is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri.
On Mar. 17, Abu Muhammad al Julani, the emir of Al Nusrah Front, issued a statement commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Syrian uprisings. Julani argued that the jihadists are inseparable from the Syrian people. Several years into the war, there are pockets of resistance to Al Nusrah, but the West has no strategy for harnessing this discontent and rolling back Al Nurah’s influence within the insurgency.
Abu Muhammad al Julani will appear at a press conference “soon,” according to Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. The timing of his appearance was likely influenced by the Syrian opposition’s meeting in Saudi Arabia this week. Al Nusrah is not represented at the gathering.