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A fighter from Syria’s al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front holds his group’s flag as he stands in front of the governorate building in Idlib province, north Syria, March 28, 2015 (AP Photo/Nusra Front on Twitter).

Nusra Front, Al-Qaida’s Affiliate, Tries to Soften Its Image in Syria

Thursday, June 4, 2015

He sat with his back to the camera, a black scarf over his head hiding his identity. In a 47-minute televised interview with Al-Jazeera recorded in “liberated territory” in northern Syria, the leader of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, said his group has no plans to attack the West. Its focus is toppling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The choreographed media campaign by the Nusra Front and its leader, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammed al-Golani, capped the group’s rise as one the most powerful of Syria’s rebel factions. Nusra fighters played a key role in a string of victories in Idlib in northern Syria over the last two months, leading an effective rebel alliance known as the Jaish al-Fatah coalition, made up of six other Syrian Islamist groups. ...

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