The Al Nusra Front, the military backbone of the US-sponsored Syrian opposition, openly swore its loyalty to Al Qaeda in a statement posted online on 3 April. Al Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command and is now leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist group. Ayman al-Zawahiri recently urged its members, veterans of the wars in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, to fight to set up an Islamic state in Syria.
Al-Golani also said that the terrorist group would merge with Al Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the so-called “Islamic State in Iraq”, Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, said that his group would join with Al Nusra under the shared banner of “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”. The so-called Free Syrian Army has said it will continue to cooperate with Al Nusra.
The Al Nusra Front has carried out many sectarian atrocities, claiming responsibility for most of the suicide bombings in Syria, including the December 2011 attack in Damascus that killed 49 people and injured more than 160 others, the May 2012 bombing in the capital in which 55 people died and 400 were wounded, and the attack in Aleppo in October, which killed 48. Most of the casualties have been civilians.
Islamist militias, including those linked to Al Qaeda, have received hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and materiel from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other US-backed forces – all under the watchful eye of the CIA, whose agents oversee the flow of supplies to the Syrian opposition across the borders of Turkey and Jordan. ■