Al-Qaeda leader says Syria’s Nusra free to go its own way

Al Jazeera reports: Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has released an audio recording, hinting that his organisation has no objection to if its Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front went its own way.

In the audio statement posted online, Zawahiri said many people talked and fought about the issue of al-Nusra and its al-Qaeda link.

He said if the people choose their own leadership, the organisational affiliation will not be an obstacle to what he described as “the great hopes of the Islamic nation”.

Al-Nusra, one of Syria’s main armed groups, has been excluded from peace talks between the country’s government and opposition in Geneva because of its affiliation with al-Qaeda and it remains on UN and US terror lists.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Gaziantep near the Turkey-Syria border, said Zawahiri’s message could be interpreted as a split between al-Qaeda and al-Nusra.

“This is being interpreted as a blessing from the central leadership of al-Qaeda to its branch in Syria, to dissociate itself from the group,” she said.

In recent months there have been several reports suggesting al-Nusra is trying to “rebrand” and present itself to the Syrian people, as well as outside powers such as the US, as a more moderate, purely Syrian force not linked to al-Qaeda.

But the group’s leadership was reportedly unsure about breaking the organisational bond with al-Qaeda. [Continue reading…]

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