Borzou Daragahi reports: Syria’s al-Qaeda branch is seeking to emulate its jihadi rival, ISIS, by establishing its own government in areas it controls.
Over the past year, the Nusra Front, a powerful and well-organized Syrian rebel army that is the country’s official arm of al-Qaeda, has shifted tactics from being a solely military force to one seeking to tighten its hold over areas under its control by seizing the reins of governance, including law enforcement and municipal affairs, in what its supporters have hinted could become its own emirate in the northwestern Idlib province.
“They switched from just being a military power to taking over services,” said Abu Yahya, nom de guerre of a Syrian activist in the city of Muraat al-Noman, in Idlib province. “Nusra is trying to build institutions and trying to oversee services. They have now developed a love for power.”
The group’s efforts are concentrated on the city of Idlib, which the regime surrendered last year as a coalition of Islamist rebel groups that included Nusra pushed its way into the city. Over the following months, Nusra began to muscle out other rebel groups when it came to running the city. It did the same in other parts of Idlib province, where it has sought to create an institution called the The Liberated Districts Administration (Idaret al Manateq al Muharrarra), in an area that includes the cities of Idlib, Reeha and Jusr al-Shughoor, which would give them direct control of taxation, sanitation, electricity, water and as well as municipal governance. [Continue reading…]