BBC News reports: The Syrian jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda last July, has merged with four smaller Syrian factions and rebranded itself as “Tahrir al-Sham”.
The new group’s leader has been named as Hashim al-Sheikh, who previously served as the head of the powerful Islamist rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham.
Ahrar al-Sham itself has refused to join the new body and has been at loggerheads with JFS in northern Syria.
On 9 February, al-Shaikh delivered the group’s first leadership message in which he insisted the new entity was independent and not an extension of former organisations and factions.
By reinventing itself again, JFS appears to be trying to distance itself from its al-Qaeda past and embed itself more deeply within the Syrian insurgency.
No mention has been made of JFS leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani in any of the new group’s communications. But he is widely believed to be serving as its military commander. [Continue reading…]