Al Qaeda in Iraq has confirmed that it is playing a leading role in the western-backed uprising to overthrow the government of Syria.
In a statement posted online on Tuesday, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, confirmed that:
“The Al-Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq.”
The Islamic State of Iraq is a national branch of Al Qaeda. The statement went on to describe Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al Jawlani as “one of our soldiers”, and to announce that the two groups are to merge and operate under the name of ‘The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’.
Al Nusra Front has grown to be one of, if not the most powerful effective rebel force in Syria. In recent months the group has taken control of a wide range of key infrastructure and strategic bases across the country, as well as wide swathes of territory. Here are a few examples from the last 2 months: