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SYRIA

Al Qaeda reshuffles operations in Syria and Iraq

afp
3 min

Al Qaeda's main branch in Syria, the ISIL, will be disbanded but the Nusra Front will continue to operate in the country under the terrorist network's command, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a message broadcast Friday by Al Jazeera.

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Al Qaeda's main branch in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), will be disbanded but the jihadist al-Nusra Front will continue to operate in the country under al Qaeda's command, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri said in an audio message broadcast by Al Jazeera on Friday.

The ISIL, a regional al Qaeda offshoot, had been established in Syria without express permission, Zawahiri said, and would thus be “abolished”.

Zawahiri said in the message that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda operations in Iraq, had "made a mistake by establishing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant without asking for our permission, or even informing us”. It was not clear when his statement was recorded.

Baghdadi had been seeking an alliance in June between the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and al-Nusra to form the ISIL, a proposal rejected by both Zawahiri and al-Nusra. The ISIL instead operates as an umbrella organisation for jihadists groups.

Al Qaeda’s leader said that the jihadist al-Nusra Front would continue to function as "an independent branch of al Qaeda that reports to the general command”.

The activities of the ISI, Zawahiri said, would be confined to operations inside Iraq.

The message appears to confirm a letter released by Al Jazeera in June, reportedly written by Zawahiri and addressed to the leaders of al Qaeda factions in both countries.

Internal al Qaeda divisions

Zawahiri acknowledged the discord between various al Qaeda factions in Syria, citing al-Nusra's rejection of the proposed merger with the ISI earlier this year.

Although Zawahiri has long maintained that al-Nusra and al Qaeda's Iraq branch should operate separately, he was apparently displeased by al-Nusra's wholesale rejection of the alliance.

The leader of the Nusra Front in Syria, Abu Mohammad al Jawlani, "made a mistake by announcing his rejection of the ISIL, without receiving our permission, or even informing us", Zawahiri said.

He ordered the two branches to support each other in their mission and criticised both groups for being behind unauthorised attacks on Muslims.

The ISIL has been blamed for escalating abuses against Syrian rebels and civilians, including kidnappings and public executions in areas under the control of the group.

"Both sides, and all the mujahedeen (Islamist fighters) should observe the sanctity of Muslims, in respecting their blood, families and property, and should not attack a Muslim without a court order," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

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