BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkey places Syria jihadists on terror list

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks in Moscow on May 27, 2014, during a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV

ANKARA: Turkey added Al-Qaeda's franchise in neighboring Syria to a list of terrorist organizations on Tuesday, in a sign of the country's growing concern over the rise of radicals across the border.

Although other jihadist groups fighting in Syria's civil war claim to be inspired by Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra Front is the only one to be officially sanctioned by the group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Rights groups have accused the Al-Nusra Front of committing war crimes against civilians in Syria, including executions and hostage taking.

Turkey, which backs the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, has repeatedly denied claims that it is providing shelter or backing Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria.

The decision to add Al-Nusra Front on the "list of Al-Qaeda linked organisations" was published in Turkey's Official Gazette.

Ankara has long championed robust support for Syria's fragmented opposition but the growing influence of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in the war-torn country left it open to accusations that it is backing radical Islamists.

Last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed concerns over Al-Nusra, insisting that Ankara was supporting only the opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Supreme Military Council -- neither of which include Al-Nusra members.

The Al-Nusra Front is thought to be made up of predominantly Syrian citizens, and enjoys some level of support among more moderate rebel groups.

Despite sharing an ideology, the Al-Nusra Front is considered to be a less radical force than Syria's other main Al-Qaeda-inspired group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Al-Qaeda is a hardline Sunni organisation that considers Shiite Muslims, including the many volunteers from neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon fighting alongside al-Assad's forces, to be heretics.

The group has carried out attacks on Turkish soil before. In 2003, four suicide car-bomb attacks on two Istanbul synagogues, the British consulate and British bank HSBC killed 63 people, including Britain's consul general. They were claimed by an Al-Qaeda cell.

 

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Summary

Turkey added Al-Qaeda's franchise in neighboring Syria to a list of terrorist organizations on Tuesday, in a sign of the country's growing concern over the rise of radicals across the border.

Although other jihadist groups fighting in Syria's civil war claim to be inspired by Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra Front is the only one to be officially sanctioned by the group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Despite sharing an ideology, the Al-Nusra Front is considered to be a less radical force than Syria's other main Al-Qaeda-inspired group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).


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