Syria Opposition Concerned Over Nusra, Al-Qaeda Links

The Syrian National Coalition, an opposition group recognized by the Arab League as representative of the Syrian people, urged the Islamist militia Jabhat al-Nusra to “stay within” ranks after the group merged with al-Qaeda.

“The Syrian Coalition is deeply concerned about recent statements regarding the affiliations and ideologies of particular factions of the rebel forces,” the coalition said in an e-mailed statement today. “The Syrian Coalition urges Jabhat al-Nusra to stay within the ranks of nationalistic Syrians, to continue its efforts in fighting the Assad regime, and in supporting and protecting the freedom of all Syrian sects.”

Al-Nusra, which along with other rebel factions is seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s government, was designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist group in December because of ties to al-Qaeda.

The SNC was given Syria’s seat in the Arab League last month after it elected Ghassan Hitto as interim prime minister.

The conflict in Syria, which began in 2011 with peaceful protests, has escalated into a civil war that has taken at least 70,000 lives and forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee to neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

(Corrects spelling of Nusra in headline in story originally published April 14.)
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