01/18/2013, 00.00
SYRIA

Al- Nusra, a Jihadist brigade that scares Syrian rebels

Close to al-Qaeda, the group is connected with those who carried out the university attack in Aleppo. Al-Nusra and other Islamist groups are using force to impose their control on the opposition, ready to kill anyone standing in the way of an Islamic state in Syria.

Damascus (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the military force that is fighting Bashar al-Assad, has a new foe: the extremist militias coming into Syria to set up an Islamic state. Once the old regime has fallen, the opposition could be the new target of groups like the al-Nusra Brigade, a movement close to al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

In a series of interviews with al-Jazeera and the BBC, members of the group clearly state that their goal is the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria and for this they are willing to fighting other revolutionaries who stand in their way.

Some members claimed responsibility for Monday's attack at Aleppo University that left 87 people dead and hundreds of wounded. In fact, currently, the largest group is in Aleppo with hundreds of Islamist fighters.

Fearing reprisals, the rebels have denied it but they cannot hide the fact of their presence on the ground. Pickups and cars with black flags with religious inscriptions are visible in the streets. And black is al-Qaeda's colour and that of other Jihadist groups.

So far, al-Nusra has fought alongside dozens of rebel groups trying to overthrow the Assad the regime. However, "after the fall of the regime, they will try to impose their views on the Syrian people," said Saqr Idlib, a 24-year-old FSA fighter. "Their goal is for Syria to be an Islamic state and the Free Syrian Army is the opposite of that."

After secretly reaching Syria, the Jihadist militia is now in the open. Even though it is on the US terrorist list, members of the group have given interviews in print and on tape to international media.

Their main area of influence is Idlib province, but affiliated groups are operating in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and other parts of the country.

In Idlib, Mustafa, their spokesman, told al-Jazeera that they are willing to die in this conflict-the honour of martyrdom.

Al-Nusra fighters are all Sunni Muslims. They include Syrians but also outsiders from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Turkey and Afghanistan. Some fighters do not speak Arabic and are helped by comrades to communicate.

"Syria . . . will be an Islamic and Sharia state," said Khattab, who has little knowledge of Arabic but fought in Afghanistan. "We will not accept anything else. Democracy and secularism are completely rejected."

Quoted in a Reuters report on Islamist groups in Aleppo, he warned anyone who might stand in the way. "We will fight them," he said, "even if they are among the revolutionaries".

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