Iraqi al-Qa'ida declares takeover of leading Syrian rebel group

Terrorist group's union with al-Nusra Front likely to embarrass insurgency's Western supporters

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq has said it has united with the most militant and effective Syrian rebel group, the al-Nusra Front, in a move likely to embarrass Western countries supporting Syrian insurgents seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

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.

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 non-Sunni Syrians as heretics or disbelievers, is similar to the tactics and ideology of al-Qa’ida in Iraq.

Many opposition military and political factions have sought to downplay evidence that the uprising 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, the first provincial capital to fall to the opposition earlier this year. Al-Nusra also played an important role in the fighting while the Western-backed Free Syrian Army was largely absent. Religious courts have been set up in Raqqa, and al-Nusra has sought to ban the sale of cigarettes as un-Islamic.

Mr Al-Baghdadi said in a 21-minute audio talk that the new united group operating in both Iraq and Syria would in future be called The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Sham being the name for Syria and the surrounding area. He said that al-Qa’ida in Iraq had been devoting half its budget to supporting al-Nusra, of which the overall leader will apparently be Mr Al-Baghdadi himself.

The Sunni majority areas of Iraq in Western Anbar and Nineveh provinces share a common border with eastern Syria which is increasingly falling under rebel control. The degree of co-ordination was underscored early last month when 48 Syrian soldiers who had fled into Iraq were ambushed and killed at Akashat as they were being returned to Syria. An Iraqi intelligence officer was quoted as saying that al-Qa’ida in Iraq and al-Nusra have three joint training camps in the border area where they share training, logistics, intelligence and weapons.

The US, Britain and France, along with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have promoted and financed other factions of the opposition. But, while supposedly more moderate, these have often been denounced by Syrians in areas they control as being little more than bandits and incapable of maintaining civil government.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Sport
football
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all