Islamist brigades form united liberation front in bid to see off Bashar al-Assad
Syrian Islamist brigades have joined forces in a “liberation front” to topple president Bashar al-Assad.
After more than a month of meetings, leaders of Islamist units – including the Farooq Brigade that operates mainly in Homs and the Sukour al-Sham brigade of Idlib – have formed the “Front to Liberate Syria”. The growing role of the Islamist fighters has caused concern among western powers weighing up how best to support opposition forces arrayed against Mr Assad.
The new front does not include some groups which western officials consider the most radical such as the Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda behind a series of devastating suicide bombs in Damascus and Aleppo.
“We have more than 40,000 fighters now and the numbers are growing because more brigades are expressing interest in joining,” said the leader of the new front, Ahmad al-Sheikh, also known as Abu Eissa. Originally the group was called the Islamic Front to Liberate Syria. Brigade leaders voted to drop the word “Islamic” but Islam remains a central element, Mr Sheikh said. “We are proud of our Islamism and we are Islamists, ” said Mr Sheikh, who is head of the Sukour al-Sham Brigades. “But we want a state with Islamic reference and we are calling for it.”
Brigades in Damascus, Deir al-Zor, Aleppo, Idlib and Homs have joined the front, he said.
Abu Eissa said all the Front’s fighters were Syrian. “We do not want anyone from outside, so that the revolution is not exploited and is not serving the agendas of others,” he said.
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