Al-Qa’ida in Iraq has said it has united with the most militant and effective Syrian armed group", the al-Nusra Front, in a move likely to embarrass Western countries supporting Syrian insurgents seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qa’ida’s umbrella organisation in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, said in a statement posted on Islamic fundamentalist websites that his group had helped create al-Nusra, had funded it and reinforced it with experienced al-Qa’ida fighters from Iraq. He said: “It’s now time to declare in front of the people of the Levant and the world that al-Nusra Front is but an extension of the Islamic State of Iraq and part of it.” The United States has labelled al-Nusra a “terrorist” group.
Many opposition military and political factions have sought to downplay evidence that the crisis in Syria is dominated by jihadi and salafi movements preaching holy war. Al-Nusra is not the only such organisation and it was Ahrar al-Sham, another well-organised Islamic fundamentalist group, which led the assault on Raqqa
Al-Nusra has been at the forefront of the fighting in and around Aleppo and appears to have been behind a series of car bombings in Damascus. Some 15 people were killed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up near the Central Bank in Damascus on Monday. Its use of suicide bombers, foreign volunteers and fundamentalist rhetoric, targeting Syrians as heretics or disbelievers, is similar to the tactics and ideology of al-Qa’ida in Iraq.
The US, Britain and France, along with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have promoted and financed other factions of the opposition.