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NOW

Damascus rebel factions pledge
allegiance to Nusra

Ansar al-Sharia’a and Al-Muntasir Billah announced they were joining the Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Ansar al-Sharia’a and Al-Muntasir Billah announcement. (YouTube/Al-Nusra Front)

BEIRUT – Two Islamist factions based in a northeastern district of Damascus that has been subject to a truce have pledged allegiance to the Al-Nusra Front, the latest merger among rebel groups in war-torn Syria.

 

“Ansar al-Sharia’a and Al-Muntasir Billah announce their full incorporation into the branch of Al-Qaeda in [Syria], Al-Nusra Front,” a spokesperson said in a video released Sunday on Nusra’s Twitter account.

 

“[The two groups] pledge [their] allegiance to the conquering sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Jolani [Nusra’s chief] in submission and obedience.”

 

Near the start of the video, the spokesperson, who stood in front of fighters holding aloft a Nusra flag, quoted a passage on unity from the fourth verse of the Quran’s Surat Al-Saf.

 

“Verily, God loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] structure joined firmly.”

 

The two small Islamist factions, he said, had vowed to fight “the hateful Russians, Rafidhites [pejorative term for Shiites] and Nusairis [pejorative term for Alawites].”

 

“This shall continue until God’s sharia’a alone rules in accordance with the clear way of the prophethood,” the spokesperson added, in a clear reference to Nusra’s goal of establishing Islamist governance.

 

When he had finished reciting the statement, the speaker asked the fighters to repeat his pledge. They then formed a circle and placed their hands together in the center in symbolic show of unity.

 

The Ansar al-Sharia and Al-Muntasir Billah fighters featured in the video are present in the Qaboun district of northeastern Damascus, where an uneasy truce with the regime has been in place since September 2014.

 

Mohammed al-Omar, a media activist from the Damascus area, told ARA News that “the Qaboun front has been one of the quietest in Damascus for around two years because it is cut off from eastern Ghouta.”

 

“Therefore, this type of move may prove inappropriate if the regime captures the area.”

 

In turn, a source in Al-Nusra Front told the Erbil-based outlet that “the ceasefire agreed upon with the regime does not concern Al-Nusra Front and therefore we shall continue to fight.”​

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope (@UllinHope) translated the Arabic-language source material.

Ansar al-Sharia’a and Al-Muntasir Billah pledge allegiance to Nusra chief Jolani. (YouTube/Al-Nusra Front)

[The two groups] pledge [their] allegiance to the conquering sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Jolani [Nusra’s chief] in submission and obedience.