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Preacher urges Nusra Front to abandon Al-Qaeda pledge

Qaradawi described the Front’s pledge of fealty to Al-Qaeda as dangerous.

DOHA: Influential Muslim preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi Monday urged the Nusra Front to stay loyal to the mainstream Syrian rebel army, and described its pledge of fealty to Al-Qaeda as dangerous.“

Nusra Front, which has done very well in its jihad against the tyrant regime of Damascus, should ... remain within the ranks of the Free [Syrian] Army, to maintain unity,” the International Union of Muslim Scholars which he heads said in a statement.

“This pledge causes internal and external dangers, and its impact on the revolution is dangerous, because it breaks the ranks of the mujahideen,” the Doha-based group said.

Listed by Washington as a “terrorist” group, the Nusra Front has been playing an effective role in the fight against President Bashar Assad’s forces.

It has long been suspected of links to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but the announcement of an alleged merger between the groups and its pledge to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri earlier this month have raised hackles among some in the Syrian opposition.

The union urged the Nusra Front “to leave the issue of rule and state in Syria until after the liberation, when the people can freely choose an Islamic system or any other system of rule.”

It warned that the pledge to Al-Qaeda only “strengthens” the Assad regime.

Rebel fighters and activists have been reluctant to criticize the group publicly, unwilling to alienate one of the fiercest fighting forces battling Assad’s regime.

When the United States designated the group a “terrorist” organization last December, the Syrian National Coalition and other opposition groups criticized the decision.

But there has been discomfort with both the Front’s tactics and its explicit calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 23, 2013, on page 8.

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