— خراسان البلاغ (@khorasan313) September 24, 2014
Mike Giglio reports: At least eight U.S. airstrikes targeted the infamous Syrian rebel group called Jabhat al-Nusra in the last 24 hours. But a week ago, serving tea at his apartment in southern Turkey, an official with the extremist group complained that it gets a bad rap in the U.S. — and that the Obama administration should even see it as an ally.
Nusra is one of the most powerful insurgent forces in Syria’s civil war, with a long record of fighting the regime. It’s also a branch of al-Qaeda. This has seen it blacklisted as a terrorist group by the U.S. and U.N., something that has always angered some of its members, such as the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They say their lone goal is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a man whose ouster the Obama administration has called for too. “Why this treatment?” the official asked.
With global attention — and U.S. airstrikes — focused on another extremist group in the region, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, some Nusra members were pushing to mark a clear distinction between the two organizations. Nusra even released a U.S. man it was holding captive — journalist Peter Theo Curtis — as well as 45 U.N. peacekeepers. “They’re just criminals,” the official said of ISIS, making a point of condemning the group for beheading U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. “They’re against the U.S. generally.”
He suggested that Nusra and the U.S., which backs moderate rebel groups inside Syria, were on the same side: “We are fighting with the rebels. We are fighting with their alliance against the other alliance. So why attack us?”
He added: “We didn’t do anything against the U.S. We just want to fight Assad.” [Continue reading…]
Nusra official tells me US strikes hit Ahrar al-Sham too: "They're attacking the strongest groups that are really fighting the regime."
— Mike Giglio (@mike_giglio) September 23, 2014