The Syrian jihadist group Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, has announced it has split from al-Qaeda, whose leader purportedly gave his blessing to the separation.
Nusra Front leader Abu Mohamed al-Golani confirmed late on Thursday that his group has formally split from al-Qaeda and has renamed itself the Levantine Conquest Front.
“The creation of this new front aims to close the gap between the jihadi factions in the Levant,” Golani said in his first televised appearance, “By breaking our link, we aim to protect the Syrian revolution.”
“We thank the leaders of al-Qaeda for understanding the need to break links,” he added.
Golani’s comments come several hours after al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared to give his blessing to the anticipated split with its Syrian affiliate, in an audio recording released on YouTube.
Speculation had been growing in the past week that Nusra Front leaders had decided to cut their formal links with al-Qaeda, with sources close to the group telling Middle East Eye that an announcement was imminent.
In a clip within the six-and-a-half-minute audio message attributed to Zawahiri, he said that Nusra should split from al-Qaeda if the decision improved the unity of groups fighting a common enemy in Syria.