The leader of the foreign - backed al - Nusra militant group fighting against the Syrian government has pledged allegiance to the al - Qaeda chief, Ayman al - Zawahiri.Abu Mohammed al - Jawlani, head of the terrorist al - Nusra Front, made the announcement in an audio message published on Wednesday. His remarks came a day after the leader of al - Qaeda - inspired Islamic State of Iraq network, Abu Bakr al - Baghdadi, announced merger with the al - Nusra Front to play an even greater role in the crisis plaguing Syria.
Baghdadi said in a recording, “It is time to declare to the Levant and to the world that the al - Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq. ”Jawlani further admitted that he had fought alongside al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, saying he is “proud” of the terrorist group’s flag in the country. However, he added that the al-Nusra Front was not “consulted” on Baghdadi’s comments regarding a merger with the terrorist group. Meanwhile, former leader of Syria’s opposition National Coalition Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib tried to distance the bloc from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front following Baghdadi's statement, saying, “There has never been and there will never be a decision at the command level to coordinate with al-Nusra.” Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have lost their lives in the crisis that broke out in Syria in March 2011. Damascus says the West and its regional allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are supporting the militants.