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Sunday
Jun092013

Syria Feature: Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq

Activists with Jabhat al-Nusra FlagWriting for Al Jazeera English, Basma Atassi, claims that the head of Al Qa'eda, Ayman al-Zawahari, has intervened in a dispute between the Syrian insurgency Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq with a letter to the leaders of the two groups.

The clash arose in April when the head of the ISI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, tried to claim oversight of Jabhat al-Nusra in a message. A senior JAN commander, Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, responded by asserting the insurgents' autonomy in Syria.

Media coverage incorrectly claimed that the ISI and JAN had "merged", as well as emphasising al-Joulani's reference to al-Zawahari as a "pledge of allegiance".

Instead, the challenge for Jabhat al-Nusra was that --- even as it tried to maintain indpendence from the Iraqi faction --- its fighters might join ISI. Atassi claims that al-Baghdadi went as far as to travel to the suburbs of Aleppo to open offices. Local conflicts in Syria's largest city followed, according to JAN sources, with fighters who joined ISI refusing to give flour to the committee distributing the supplies to residents.

Amid the conflict, Jabhat al-Nusra’s official publication, al-Manara al-Baydaa (the White Minaret), suspended publication after it posted al-Jowlani's objection to the ISI's statement.

So, according to Atassi, al-Joulani sent a letter to Zawahiri to arbitrate between the two groups.

Atassi continues, from JAN sources, that Zawahiri sent letters to al-Joulani and al-Baghdadi last week, ruling in favour of Jabhat al-Nusra and appointing a commander named Abu Khaled al-Soury as a personal emissary "to oversee the implementation of the accord".

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