Turkey blacklists al-Nusra Front as terror group

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Turkey added al-Qaeda's franchise in neighboring Syria to a list of terrorist organizations on Tuesday, in a sign of the country's growing concern over the rise of radicals across the border.

Although other jihadist groups fighting in Syria's civil war claim to be inspired by al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front is the only one to be officially sanctioned by the group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Rights groups have accused the al-Nusra Front of committing war crimes against civilians in Syria, including executions and hostage taking.

Turkey, which backs the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, has repeatedly denied claims that it is providing shelter or backing al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria.

The decision to add Al-Nusra Front on the "list of Al-Qaeda linked organisations" was published in Turkey's Official Gazette.

Ankara has long championed robust support for Syria's fragmented opposition but the growing influence of al-Qaeda affiliated groups in the war-torn country left it open to accusations that it is backing radical Islamists.

Last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed concerns over al-Nusra, insisting that Ankara was supporting only the opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Supreme Military Council -- neither of which include al-Nusra members.

Nusra is thought to be made up of predominantly Syrian citizens, and enjoys some level of support among more moderate rebel groups.

Despite sharing an ideology, al-Nusra Front is considered to be a less radical force than Syria's other main al-Qaeda-inspired group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al-Qaeda has carried out attacks on Turkish soil before. In 2003, four suicide car-bomb attacks on two Istanbul synagogues, the British consulate and British bank HSBC killed 63 people, including Britain's consul general. They were claimed by an al-Qaeda cell.



Short memory?

"Not only has Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied that the Nusra Front are terrorists—more like honorable jihadists, he suggested in the face of questions from an opposition leader—but Turkish forces have also apparently used al-Nusra as a proxy against the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish party linked to Turkey’s own Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which remains overwhelmingly popular among Syria’s Kurdish population. If it comes to a choice between an al-Qaeda affiliate and a secular Kurdish party controlling territory, Erdoğan sides with al-Qaeda."



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