U.S. to Declare Syrian Jihadists a 'Terrorist' Group

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The United States will declare the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group battling to overthrow Syria's President Bashar Assad, a "foreign terrorist organization," documents showed Tuesday.

The State Department has not formally announced the move to blacklist the group, but posted the declaration in the Federal Register, in a document that described the Al-Nusra Front as an alias of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The Al-Nusra Front is one of the most effective of several armed groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime, raising concerns in the West that hardline Islamists are hijacking the 21-month-old revolt.

The group has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings that killed scores of people, and has said it hopes to replace the Assad family's four-decade-old dictatorship with a strict Islamic state.

The State Department linked the group to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has carried out scores of massive bombings targeting Shiite civilians and regularly targeted U.S. forces before their withdrawal a year ago.

"We've had concerns that Al-Nusra is little more than a front for Al-Qaeda in Iraq, (which) has moved some of its operations into Syria," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier on Monday.

She said the State Department would "have more to say about this" in the coming days.

Declaring the Al-Nusra Front a terrorist group would entail freezing its assets and banning Americans from any transactions with the group, which could complicate efforts to provide aid to Syria's fragmented rebellion.

Earlier on Monday, jihadists led by the Al-Nusra Front seized a strategic army base in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo.

An Agence France Presse correspondent reporting from the scene said many of the fighters hailed from other Arab countries and Central Asia.

The move to declare the Al-Nusra Front a terror group comes ahead of the so-called Friends of Syria meeting set to take place in Morocco on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had planned to attend the meeting but canceled her trip on Monday due to illness. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was to attend in her place.

Arab and Western states backing the revolt were to discuss the political transition in the event of Assad's fall, and mobilizing vital humanitarian aid as winter sets in.

Since the last meeting, in Paris in July, the number of people killed has risen from 16,000 to more than 42,000, according to the Observatory.

The United States has repeatedly called on Assad to step aside but says it has not provided arms to the rebels for fear they could end up in the hands of radical groups.

Comments 3
Thumb jcamerican 11 December 2012, 11:23

Everything they did, it will come back to bite them in the rear end.

Thumb JabalElFersan 11 December 2012, 11:57

Wow,,, this news piece is at least 18 months too late. The revolt started with Syrians and turned into a sectarian battle of Sunni Muslims wanting to overthrow an Alawite Muslim government. Hence the reason you will find Extremist Muslims fighting a war that doesn't essentially effect them, to these extremists, it's not about fighting for the liberties of the Syrian people but it is a Jihad. USA is simply afraid of repeating the whole Taliban thing!

Thumb lebanon_first 11 December 2012, 12:37

Wrong FT. The US did not plan that we be feodal, or that the region be islamist. It just adapted to what is on the ground. The US tried to implement what they think is a democracy in Irak and they got criticized. Whatever they do, they get criticized. When they finance the LMT (lebanon mountain trail) in Lebanon to bring develompment to the regions, you think they are trying to control puppet kings? give the US a break. I think the only appaling policy of the obama administration in the middle east is the blatant support to the criminal zionist regime, due to the control of the zionist lobby of key congressmen, and this in spite of Presidential antipathy towards Israel.- Quit the conspiracy theories.