Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has anointed al-Nusra Front jihadists to carry the network’s banner in Syria and ordered the Iraqi faction of his network to stop interfering in the civil war.
Zawahiri’s remarks, made in an audio recording broadcast on Friday, confirmed a written order issued in June that has so far gone unheeded, according to Agence France-Presse.
The news came as the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops, backed fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite group Hezbollah, recaptured parts of Base 80 in the north.
Zawahiri said the al-Nusra Front was the jihadist’s group only branch in Syria, tasked with reporting “to the general command,” and will no longer operate under the banner of al-Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, AFP reported.
“The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is to be abolished, while the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) remains functioning,” he said.
In April of this year, a dispute erupted when ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had claimed that Nusra was now its branch in Syria, but that was rejected by its Nusra commander Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani, who affirmed allegiance to Zawahiri.
The al-Nusra Front, created in January 2012, joined al-Qaeda in December of that year and is on a U.S. list of foreign terrorists organizations.
The al-Nusra Front has carried out some of the deadliest attacks against the Syrian regime, including several suicide bombings.
The war in Syria has killed so far more than 120,000, according to the Observatory.
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