Al Qaida affiliate declares ‘emirate’

 

McClatchy Foreign Staff

One week after radical Islamists in Iraq declared a “Caliphate” spanning the Iraqi-Syria border with its capital in Mosul, Al Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra, said it is setting up an “Emirate” in besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

Nusra leader Abu Muhammad Al Jolani, who rarely appears in public, on Friday wished his militants the “glad tidings” of an Islamic Emirate that aims at implementing Sharia, a strict Islamic law, the Aleppo Media Center said.

Jolani told his fighters that Aleppo will witness the birth of the first Islamic Emirate, and the experience will then be replicated in other areas, even as the movement attempts to break the siege of rebel-held territories by the Assad regime, according to a Nusra member contacted by the Media Center.

Jolani also told his followers to be fully prepared to fight anyone who opposed the Islamic Emirate – an apparent reference not only to the newly declared Islamic State ‘Caliphate,’ but also to moderate pro-western fighters who are unlikely to agree to pledge their loyalty to him.

The media center, which has a reputation for fact-checking, did not name its source within the secretive Nusra movement. The location from which Jolani spoke was not known.

Jolani’s call seemed certain to undercut Nusra’s collaboration with moderate pro-western rebel groups, and it could devastate the opposition to the Assad regime.

Capt. Jamil al Saleh of the military council in Hama, central Syria, told McClatchy that from this point on, “there is no need” for Syrian President Bashar Assad “to bother fighting us. We will kill one another.”

An activist in Khan Shaikhun in Idib province, which is dominated by Nusra, told McClatchy “I don’t see acceptance of this idea in my city.”

Unlike the announcement one week earlier by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the self-styled Caliph of the Islamic State, Jolani’s declaration appeared to be a sign of weakness. Baghdadi spoke in a principal mosque of Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, after his Islamic State forces and other Sunnis seized about a third of Iraqi territory.

But Nusra and other rebels are under severe pressure in Aleppo, which regime forces have nearly surrounded. Moreover, the rapid gains in Iraq by Baghdadi’s Islamic State, have knocked the rebel movement in Syria off balance.

Baghdadi had supported the Nusra movement after its founding in early 2012, providing manpower and weapons. But in April 2013, he announced the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which he said would supersede Nusra. Jolani rejected the takeover, and re-established Nusra, and by early this year the two extremist groups were engaged in armed clashes.

Jolani’s statement Friday appeared to be an attempt to head off defections to Baghdadi’s Islamic State. In critical towns along Syria’s border with Iraq, Nusra fighters have switched sides and joined the Islamic State.

Mounir Al Ali, an activist in Idlib who is close to Nusra, said via Skype that he thinks that parts of Jolani’s speech were leaked as a message to Baghdadi that Jolani will not pledge fealty to the Caliphate.

Jolani’s announcement of his Emirate followed a minor advance on the ground, coming one day after the group captured heavy weapons and a sizable ammunition stock from the regime after a suicide bomb in Al Rahajan village in the Syrian desert in the east of Hama.

Abu Muhammad Al Ghabi, a rebel leader from the area, said that Nusra has seized two T72 tanks, one armored personnel carrier, four 130MM artillery pieces in addition to heavy machine guns and large quantity of spare parts and ammunition.

Al Ghabi said the capture of the village was also important for cutting the regime’s supply route to Aleppo, but he said he doubted that this was the aim of the battle.

Al Hamadee is a McClatchy special correspondent. Roy Gutman in Istanbul contributed.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Sri Lankan activist: Gov't trying to hurt UN probe

    Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's decision to deny entry to U.N. investigators is intended to undermine the credibility of an ongoing war crimes inquiry, an activist said Thursday.

  • Saudi court sentences 18 to prison for terrorism

    A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced 18 people to prison on charges of financing terrorism, collecting information about compounds where foreigners reside, providing hideouts for fugitives and possessing unlicensed weapons.

  • Flooding in Nepal kills US tourist, capsizes boat

    An American tourist died trying to cross a flooded river in Nepal on Thursday, and two people were missing from a crowded boat that capsized on another river swollen by monsoon rains in the Himalayan country.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category