Syria's al-Nusra Front 'to cut ties' with al-Qaeda
The Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate's shura ["consultation"] council reportedly voted to break ties with the terrorist group after a split in its ranks emerged earlier this week following the announcement of coordinated Russia-US airstrikes against the jihadi armed group.
"Nusra's shura council has voted to break ties with al-Qaeda. Possibly tomorrow," analyst Charles Lister tweeted on Saturday, quoting a high-level Islamist source in Syria but saying the news was yet to be confirmed.
During his visit to Russia last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry proposed closer military cooperation with Moscow in targeting militant groups in Syria. This includes the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front, which the US brands as a terrorist groups.
The reports were met with conflicting reaction within the militant group's ranks. About a third of al-Nusra Front are seeking a split from al-Qaeda and willing to renounce terrorism, reports said.
"If the name of Nusra is a justification to target its affiliates, then changing or abdicating it is not abdicating the Koran," the Jordanian-based Salafi cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi said in a statement reported by The Times.
"Disengaging [from al-Qaeda] is not apostasy when there's a need," he said.
His comments helped pave way for a vote on the split, senior sources quoted by The Times said.
News of the split quickly circulated on social media, with many pointing out that cutting ties with al-Qaeda does not change al-Nusra's jihadi ideology, tactics or outlook.
"Only fools will think that al-Nusra's break-away from al-Qaeda will make it any different. Never. Both follow the same ideology, philosophy, teachings and beliefs," a Twitter user tweeted with an Ayman al-Zawahiri avatar said.
Other users believed that breaking away al-Nusra's affiliation to al-Qaeda by name is not the solution.
"If you think the problem is in being an affiliate of al-Qaeda by name then the split will be easy. But if you know the problem is with the ideology, then that won't be as easy to break away from," he tweeted.
Some were optimistic that the group is moving in the right direction.
"Cutting ties with al-Qaeda is a good step but al-Nusra must not stop here, but continue to break away and eradicate the al-Qaeda school and it all it represents," a Twitter user said.