Al-Qaeda in Iraq merges with Syrian militant group

Jabhat al-Nusra has sided with rebels fighting Assad's regime

A man walks along a deserted street in the Syrian town of Deir al-Zor. Photograph: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

A man walks along a deserted street in the Syrian town of Deir al-Zor. Photograph: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters


The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has said the organistaion has merged with Syria's extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, which has sided with the rebels fighting president Bashar Assad's regime.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, says the two groups will rally under the same al-Qaeda flag. His announcement came in a 21-minute audio message posted on militant websites last night.

Al-Baghdadi says the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra will be known as the "Islamic State in Iraq and Sham."

Sham is a name for Syria and the surrounding region.

The development is likely to raise concerns among foreign backers of Syria's opposition.

Experts have long said that al-Nusra Front was receiving support from al Qaeda-linked insurgents in neighbouring Iraq. The group has claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Damascus and Aleppo, and its fighters have joined other rebel brigades in attacks on Dr Assad's forces.

At least 70,000 people have been killed since protests led by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority broke out two years ago against Dr Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

The demonstrations were met with bullets, sparking a Sunni backlash and a mostly Islamist armed insurgency increasingly led by the al-Nusra Front.

The US State Department in December designated the group a foreign terrorist organisation.


Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.