The leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria claimed in an interview with an Arab TV station that the group had no plans to attack the West, but could retaliate if airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition continued to target them.
Abu Muhammed al-Golani, who heads the Nusra Front, said the aim of the terror affiliate is to march to the Syrian capital Damascus and bring down President Bashar Assad’s government. Al-Golani also denied that the Khorasan group exists.
Since September, U.S. airstrikes have not only targeted the Islamic State in Syria but also have targeted the so-called Khorasan group – which Washington has said is a special cell within the Nusra Front that is plotting attacks against Western interests.
“There is nothing called Khorasan group,” al-Golani claimed in an interview Wednesday night with Al-Jazeera TV. “We heard this from Americans only.”
He added that if the coalition’s airstrikes continue “then the alternatives are open and it is the right of any human being to defend itself.”
The directions received from the Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri are “not to use Syria for attacks against the West and Europe,” al-Golani said.
"The directions that we are received from Dr. Ayman, may God protect him, are that the Nusra Front aim is to bring down the regime and its allies, I mean Hezbollah," al-Golani, whose face was not shown during the interview, said.
He added that the “directions we have received until now is not to target the West and America.” However, al-Golani added that the larger Al Qaeda group may be doing so.
The Nusra Front, one of Syria's strongest groups, is leading the so-called Fatah Army that consists seven Syria-based factions. The Fatah Army has defeated Assad's forces in northwestern Syria over the past two months capturing wide areas of the northwestern province of Idlib, including the provincial capital that carries the same name.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.