Jabhat al-Nusra is one of the most powerful jihadi groups in Syria. Now it is breaking its link with al-Qaida and changing its name.
The move is already characterized as an apparent attempt to be removed from the US list of proscribed terror groups.
But Washington already declared that the rebrand did not amount to a remake and said the faction remained a target for US fighter jets, which have sought the group across northern Syria for the past two years. The US state department said it has so far seen no reason to change its view of the group, and would judge it on its actions, goals, and ideology.
All the recent changes were announced by al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohamed al-Jolani in a debut video appearance on a Qatar-based television network.
The group’s new name is Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – the front for the liberation of al-Sham, the historical Arabic name for the Levantine region.
“We have stopped operating under the name of al-Nusra Front and formed a new body ... This new formation has no ties with any foreign party,” he said.
Jolani said the latest move was to eliminate, what he called, all excuses made by the U.S. and Russia to bomb the civilians in Syria.
Al-Qaida on its statement on Thursday said that the al-Nusra Front group was free to do as it wished if it served the interests of those fighting Assad.
Nusra Front, founded in 2012 in Syria, was one of the leading opposition groups fighting against the regime across the war-torn country. When the front was asked to swear allegiance to Daesh leader Muhammad Baghdadi, it announced loyalty to Al-Qaeda after which the U.S. listed the group as a terrorist organization.