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Al-Qaida In Syria Claims It Isn’t Planning To Attack The West

In a televised interview with Al-Jazeera, the leader of al-Qaida in Syria alleged the group is focused on attacking the Syrian regime and its allies– not the West.

Using the pseudonym Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, the leader said his group, known as Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated with the broader al-Qaida group, has been tasked with battling the Bashar Assad regime and Hezbollah.

The Lebanese terror group and Iranian proxy has been fighting to uphold the Syrian regime.

“The instructions that we have are not to use al-Sham [Levant, the sub-region that includes Syria,] as a base to launch attacks on the West or Europe, so as not to muddy the current war,” said Jolani on Al-Jazeera’s program, “Without Borders.”

Nusra began in 2011 as an off-shoot of al-Qaida in Iraq, which later became the Islamic State in Iraq. But when leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claimed the two groups made up the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Jolani reasserted Nusra’s allegiance to al-Qaida instead.

In early 2013, al-Qaida promised “earth-shattering, shocking and terrifying” attacks against the U.S., posting the threat on its website.

“It [Nusra] employs both terrorist attacks and more traditional warfare against the government and Hezbollah while continuing to fight against ISIS in some areas,” according Mapping Militant Organizations, a project of Stanford University.

Nusra was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State in 2012.

Despite no current plans to attack the West, if the U.S. continues to target Nusra, Jolani says the group has the right of self-defense, reports Agence France Presse. Most of the U.S.-led coalition’s airstrikes in Syria have targeted the Islamic State.

Jolani denied the existence of cell within Jabhat al-Nusra known as the “Khorasan Group” that is purportedly designed to attack the U.S.

He said al-Qaida in Syria doesn’t receive money from governments, but from individuals who share its ideology. Some private fund-raisers for the group freely operate in Qatar, the Persian Gulf monarchy that owns Al-Jazeera.

The al-Qaida leader’s face was disguised by a black sheet during the 50-minute interview, broadcast from “liberated lands” in Syria, according to presenter Ahmad Mansur.

The interview was the first in a two-part series, with the second discussion airing next week. Jolani was previously interviewed by Al-Jazeera in 2013.

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