As opposition fighters try to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, the US State Department may designate Al-Nusra Front — a Salafi group fighting the regime – as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, two unnamed American officials told CNN this week.
The announcement may come next week, the sources added, possibly at the Friends of Syria meeting scheduled to take place in Morocco on December 12.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters earlier this week that groups like Al-Nusra Front, also referred to as Jabhat al-Nusra, are increasingly becoming “a matter of concern” for Washington, but he didn’t comment on the possible blacklisting of the group.
“Although they make up a relatively small part of the opposition to Assad, we know that these groups, al-Qaeda and their ilk, try to take advantage of exactly the kind of environment that Assad has fostered over the last year or so,” Toner said.
Al-Nusra Front is a radical, Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings and attacks on the regime, notably within Damascus and the northwestern city of Aleppo, a key Assad stronghold. Within its ranks are Jihadi fighters from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Balkans, and elsewhere, who are believed to be veterans of previous wars.
The group aims to form an Islamic state in Syria.
“Thanks to our strong faith we do not fear death, because we think that if you are killed by the hands of this regime, then we will be martyrs and we will go to paradise,” said Sheik Abu Ahmed, 41, a regional military commander for Al-Nusra Front in the northern Hasaka region.
“We want Sharia (Islamic law) to be applied because it’s the right path for all humanity,” he added. “All these constitutional laws couldn’t realize the people’s happiness.”
Abu Ahmed said he believes Syrians want an Islamic state. “We think more and more people will follow us,” he said. “We think we are on the right path.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.