Iraq’s al Qaeda wing has united with a kindred Syrian group in the frontline of a struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad, sharpening a dilemma for nations that back the revolt, but fear rising Islamist militancy, Reuters said.
The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said his group had funded cells of fighters from Syria’s al-Nusra Front – which is blacklisted by the United States – since the early days of the two-year-old uprising.
He said in a statement posted on Islamist websites and seen by Reuters on Tuesday, April 9 that the two groups would operate under the joint title of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“It’s now time to declare in front of the people of the Levant and the world that al-Nusra Front is but an extension of the Islamic State of Iraq and part of it,” Baghdadi said.
“We thus declare … the cancellation of the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the name of al-Nusra Front and grouping them together under one name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” he added.
The militant Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers and their Arab allies, which favor Assad’s overthrow but are alarmed at the growing power of Sunni Muslim jihadi fighters whose fiercely anti-Shi’ite ideology has fuelled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.