Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq said it has merged with Syria's extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of radicals within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to trigger renewed fears among its international backers.
A website linked to Jabhat al-Nusra confirmed on Tuesday the merger with the Islamic State of Iraq, whose leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first made the announcement in a 21-minute audio message posted on militant websites late Monday.
Jabhat al-Nusra has taken an ever-bigger role in Syria's conflict over the last year, fighting in key battles and staging several large suicide bombings. The US has designated it a terrorist organization.
The Syrian group has made little secret of its links across the Iraqi border, but until now it has not officially declared itself to be part of al-Qaeda.
Al-Baghdadi said that his group - the Islamic State of Iraq - and Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra will now be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
"It is time to announce to the Levantine people and the whole world that Jabhat al-Nusra is merely an extension and part of the Islamic State of Iraq," he said.
He said that the Iraqi group was providing half of its budget to the conflict in Syria. Al-Baghdadi said that the Syrian group would have no separate leader but instead be led by the "people of Syria themselves" - implying that he would be in charge in both countries.
The formal merger of such a high-profile Syrian rebel group to al-Qaeda is likely to spark concerns among backers of the opposition who are enemies of the global terror network, including both Western countries and Gulf Arab states.
It may increase resentment of Jabhat al-Nusra among other rebel factions. Rebels have until now respected the radical group's fighters for their prowess on the battlefield, but a merger with al-Qaeda will complicate any effort to send arms to rebels from abroad.
A website linked to Jabhat al-Nusra known as al-Muhajir al-Islami - the Islamic emigrant - confirmed the merger.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 04/09/2013
Editor's Note: So, now, in Syria, the United States under the Obama Administration is aligned with al Qaeda...brilliant....
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