Syrian rebel splits deepen after failed ‘merger’ with Nusra

Reuters reports: The leader of al Qaeda’s Syrian wing tried unsuccessfully at a recent meeting to convince rival Islamist factions to merge into one unit, several insurgency sources have told Reuters.

Abu Mohamad al-Golani, head of the Nusra Front, even suggested he was willing to change the name of his group if the others, including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham organisation, agreed to the deal, the sources said.

But he made clear that Nusra would not cut its ties with al Qaeda, and its allegiance would remain to Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over as leader after U.S. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Much was riding on the outcome of the meeting, which the sources said took place about 10 days ago.

Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham are the most powerful groups in northern Syria: when they briefly teamed up with other Islamists last year in an alliance called the Fatah Army, the rebels scored one of their biggest victories by seizing the city of Idlib. [Continue reading…]

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