Europe

Al-Qaida central appears to OK split with Syrian branch

  • FILE - This file image posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, which is consistent with AP reporting, shows Nusra Front fighters moving forward to fight against Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen at the hilltop of Khalsa village, southern Aleppo, Syria. Al-Qaida’s branch in Syria is considering splitting ties with the global terror group, but the Nusra Front’s intention to make it more appealing to the West may in fact be a tactical move aimed at undermining ongoing talks between the U.S. and Russia on a military partnership in Syria. Arabic, bottom right, reads, "Jihadis on their way to Khalsa village." (Al-Nusra Front Twitter page via AP, File)

    FILE - This file image posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, which is consistent with AP reporting, shows Nusra Front fighters moving forward to fight against Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen at the hilltop of Khalsa village, southern Aleppo, Syria. Al-Qaida’s branch in Syria is considering splitting ties with the global terror group, but the Nusra Front’s intention to make it more appealing to the West may in fact be a tactical move aimed at undermining ongoing talks between the U.S. and Russia on a military partnership in Syria. Arabic, bottom right, reads, "Jihadis on their way to Khalsa village." (Al-Nusra Front Twitter page via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Nusra Front leader Mohammed al-Golani undated photo released online on Thursday, July 28, 2016 to announce a video message that the militant group is changing name, and claims it will have no more ties with al-Qaida. In a video aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera  al-Golani said the delinking from the terror network aimed to remove “pretexts” by the U.S. and Russia to strike other rebel groups while claiming they are targeting Nusra. Arabic reads, "coming soon, a video by the conqueror, Mohammed al-Golani."  (militant photo via AP)

    Nusra Front leader Mohammed al-Golani undated photo released online on Thursday, July 28, 2016 to announce a video message that the militant group is changing name, and claims it will have no more ties with al-Qaida. In a video aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera al-Golani said the delinking from the terror network aimed to remove “pretexts” by the U.S. and Russia to strike other rebel groups while claiming they are targeting Nusra. Arabic reads, "coming soon, a video by the conqueror, Mohammed al-Golani." (militant photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Nusra Front leader Mohammed al-Golani undated photo released online on Thursday, July 28, 2016 to announce a video message that the militant group is changing name, and claims it will have no more ties with al-Qaida. In a video aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera  al-Golani said the delinking from the terror network aimed to remove “pretexts” by the U.S. and Russia to strike other rebel groups while claiming they are targeting Nusra. Arabic reads, "coming soon, a video by the conqueror, Mohammed al-Golani."  (militant photo via AP)

    Nusra Front leader Mohammed al-Golani undated photo released online on Thursday, July 28, 2016 to announce a video message that the militant group is changing name, and claims it will have no more ties with al-Qaida. In a video aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera al-Golani said the delinking from the terror network aimed to remove “pretexts” by the U.S. and Russia to strike other rebel groups while claiming they are targeting Nusra. Arabic reads, "coming soon, a video by the conqueror, Mohammed al-Golani." (militant photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Al-Qaida's deputy leader is urging the network's Syria branch to do what it takes to preserve jihad in the war-torn country, an apparent endorsement of Nusra Front's plans to split from the parent organization.

Senior Nusra Front figures have been discussing plans to dissociate from al-Qaida. The discussions come amid calls from Russia to target the group, which collaborates with other rebel groups, including those backed by the U.S.

In a six-minute recording Thursday, Ahmed Hassan Abu el-Kheir — currently Ayman al-Zawahri's deputy — says al-Qaida instructs "the leadership of the Nusra Front to go ahead with what protects the interests of Islam and Muslims and what protects jihad" in Syria.

He also urged the Nusra Front to unite with other factions against "Crusaders" and form a good "Islamic government."

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