One of the most prominent and powerful rebel factions fighting on behalf of the Obama administration-backed “regime change” operation in Syria formally announced that it was merging with al Qaeda in Iraq, sparking fresh concerns about the U.S. government arming, training, and funding the so-called “revolution.” The latest news comes on the heels of reports that the war-torn nation is on the verge of becoming a haven for Islamic extremists on par with Afghanistan and Iraq as foreign jihadists continue flooding into Syria.
Two days before the explosive announcement, purported al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called on all Islamic fighters in Syria to join together in the bid to oust the existing regime and seize power. "Do all you can to ensure that the fruit of your struggle, God willing, is an Islamic state,” the terror leader said about the conflict in his most recent message. The new regime, he added, should be “a state that would be a building stone in the return of the rightly-guided caliphate."
More than a year ago, Zawahiri urged Islamist forces from around the world to join the battle, saying that a Muslim man has a duty to help "his brothers in Syria with all that he can — with his life, money, opinion, as well as information." The call attracted serious concerns among analysts monitoring the conflict, warning that Western support for the “revolution” was going to bring serious and potentially deadly “blowback” that would last for generations.
The recent merger of the two al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups, known as the “Islamic State in Iraq” and “Jabhat al-Nusra,” will now be called the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” The official announcement was made by Iraqi al-Qaeda chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an audio message earlier this week that was spread on Islamist websites. Syrian jihadist sources also confirmed the merger, which was reportedly met with celebration among Islamists.
“It is time to announce to the Levantine people and the whole world that Jabhat al-Nusra is merely an extension and part of the Islamic State of Iraq,” al-Baghdadi was quoted as saying in the message, referring to the population inhabiting a region stretching from Turkey to Egypt. The al-Qaeda boss said his Iraqi organization would offer half of its budget to the Syrian “revolution” and implied that the terrorist entity created by the merger would share the same leadership.
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