Isis in Syria: Militant group al-Nusra claims US air strikes are a 'war against Islam'

The al-Qaeda affiliate has vowed to retaliate

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The Independent Online

The Syrian terror group Jabhat al-Nusra has denounced US air strikes against Isis as “a war against Islam” and vowed to take revenge against the coalition of countries supporting military action in the region.

In an online statement on Saturday, al-Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri called on jihadists around the world to strike against the global alliance opposing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

He said: "These states have committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world”

"This is not a war against al-Nusra, but a war against Islam."

Led by the US, a coalition of about 40 countries, including Arab states, is taking steps to destroy the radical Islamist group Isis which controls vast swathes of north-eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

Though al-Nusra, which is an affiliate group of  is not officially a target of the air strikes, US jets have attacked a new group called Khorasan, which some analysts believe is part of Jabhat al-Nusra.

This international response represents a mutual enemy of former rival jihadist groups Isis and al-Nusra, with recent reports describing an emerging alliance.

An al-Nusra source told Reuters: “There are hardline voices inside Nusra who are pushing for reconciliation with Islamic State.”

An increasing number of al-Nusra fighters are defecting to Isis, which is seen as better organised and better equipped to impose Islamic rule.

The same source, however, also said that the groups would only unite on the order of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

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Al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri will have the final say on whether al-Nusra merges with Isis

The Pentagon said that on Saturday US airstrikes hit the Syrian city of Raqqa, the unofficial capital of the Islamic State, as well as Isis forces near the Turkish border.

US Central Command said that jets destroyed an Isis-occupied building and two armed vehicles near the Kurdish town of Kobane at the Syria-Turkey border.

Kurdish fighters are set up to defend Kobane following an Isis advance that sent more than 100,000 civilians fleeing to Turkey.

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Thousands of Kurds flee Kobane following Isis advance

Moderate Syrian rebel group Free Syrian Army said on Saturday that it supports air strikes against Isis but only if it can avoid causing civilian casualties.

Spokesman Hussam al-Marie told the BBC that western countries should also attack Syrian government forces.

He said: "(The) so-called Islamic State is our enemy as much as (President) Assad's regime is our enemy.

"We want Syria free from dictatorship and from terrorism. We need the support of the free world to continue this battle against the regime and Isis (IS). We are fighting on two fronts."

The UK joined the air campaign against Isis on Friday following a vote in Parliament in which MPs voted to launch strikes in Iraq, but not Syria.

The UK’s first combat operation took place on Saturday when two RAF Tornadoes were deployed from Cyprus, although no strikes were launched.

The UK also has a Rivet Joint spy plane in the region.

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RAF Tornado GR4s are armed with Laser Guided Bombs

France is already involved in the airstrikes in Iraq, whilst Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have all pledged aircrafts to support the global operation.

European countries are only hitting targets in Iraq where the government has asked for help.

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