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Origins and evolution Al-Nusrah Front Terrorist Group
Al-Nusrah Front is a radical jihadist group led by Abu Mohammed al-Jolani fighting against the Syrian government army in the Syrian Civil War aimed at starting an Islamic state in the nation. The organization was formed in August 2011 when seven jihadi commanders from Iraq entered Syria in quest of taking advantage of the country’s instability to create a new Syrian state division of the recuperating Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) (Arango et al., 2012). A Syrian, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, secretly following the commands of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISI leader, led his six cohorts over the leaky border and swiftly begun associating themselves with the Islamic State in Iraq’s deep-rooted Syrian jihadi groups (Arango et al., 2012). Days later, the needed foundations had been set for the establishment of Al-Nusrah Front.
The organization has come a long way since 2011. It has changed itself from being a detested outsider blamed of pioneering strange ISI-like cruelty into a nationalist uprising in 2012, towards being a group close to an acknowledged or even a top member of the radical Syrian opposition from since 2012. Jabhat al-Nusra separated from ISIS under the command of Baghdadi in April 2013 and renamed itself Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham. The division started conflicts between it and ISIS in 2014. Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham is currently among the most dominant armed performers in the Syrian crisis (Lister, 2016).
Causes and objectives of the group
Lister says that nobody ought to be under the false impressions of the new-named organization’s aspirations (Lister, 2016). He adds that their long-term objective is to create an Islamic emirate in the country. Mahamed, the group’s leader, states that the faith that Islam ought to govern the dealings of the Muslims is not exclusive to any organization, but the major belief is that, when provided the opportunity or freed, the Muslims would choose to be ruled by their faith (Hashim, 2014). According to Lister, the leader is against the inflicting of the Western liberal democracy in a Muslim country. However, currently, the Syrians reject the notion of Islamic Emirate since they see it as too extremist (Lister, 2016).
Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist group
Terrorism refers to the illegal application of aggression and threats, particularly against civilians, in the quest of political objectives. Therefore, the group qualifies as a terrorist since it uses force in trying to impose an Islamic government in Syria (BBC News, 2017). For example, it fights other political groups that are not for their ideologies. In some of its videos, the organization has openly claimed to be behind some of the suicide bombings that have occurred in the country since its establishment in 2011 (BBC News, 2017).
The organization as religious-political
The Al-Nusra Front is a type of religious-political group, which stick to a Salafist, Jihadist philosophy aiming at the establishment of Islamic governance in regions that are under its control. In its inauguration in January 2012, a masked spokesperson outlined its goals and introduced the organization as “Syrian mujahideen” who have come to reinstate God’s rule (shari’a law) on the Earth. Therefore, although the group is a political one, the central element of governance is based on the Islamic faith.
Psychological and sociological motives of Al-Nusrah Front leaders and members
The team utilizes various methods to gain popularity and followers. There are several reasons behind the techniques used by the group to obtain support. For example, the organization employs fear or terror to ensure that people are psychologically affected and threatened and hence coercing them to support its activities (Arango et al., 2012). Moreover, it uses religion, the Islam, lure people psychologically to follow it. Moreover, by separating itself from other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida and presenting itself as non-violent, it aims to gain support from the civilian in its pursuit of establishing an Islamic state (Shay & Karmon, 2016). Sociologically, Al-Nusrah Front aims at making Syria a country or a society that is governed by the same beliefs and shari’a law and; therefore, avoiding the western influence on Muslims.
Al-Nusrah Front’s methods of bombings and assassinations
The group still utilizes terrorist tactics in its aim to obtain an Islamic state. Since 2011, the Nusra Front has performed formal military killings, hostage missions, campaigns as well as “lone wolf” procedures such as the al-Qaida’s design suicide bombings (Lister, 2016). For instance, by June 2013, the group had alleged accountability for fifty-seven out of 70 suicide attacks performed during the Syrian civil war. Moreover, the group is also involved in series of suicide bombings in the country into 2016.
The way Al-Nusrah Front leaders and members view themselves
Given that the leaders and the members of the Al-Nusrah Front follow the Salafi jihadist ideology, which is religious-political, they see themselves as representatives of God’s rule on earth. Therefore, their aim is to ensure that Islamic faith and laws govern the Muslims as indicated in the Koran. They see themselves as the people doing the will of Allah by trying to return the Muslims to Sunni Islamism through their governance employing the Shariah law. The group believes that the Islamic faith should be applied in ruling Muslims since it is God’s will and; hence avoiding the negative western influence as they see it.
Al-Nusrah Front size and scope of its support base and funding sources
The organization is both regional and hierarchical. Each region has an overall military commander as well as a religious leader. It is headed by a consultative council known as Majlis-ash-Shura, which is led by an emir, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani (“Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham),” 2017). Al-Nusrah Front has a membership of about 20,000 fighters, 7,000 of which are approximated to be from Idlib province alone. The organization is the second to attract the biggest contingency of foreign members after ISIS (“Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham),” 2017). Its military division is accountable for performing synchronized attacks against Bashar al-Assad’s (the Syrian president) government, loyalists, supposed collaborators as well as competitor organizations such as ISIS.
Al-Nusrah Front financing comes from various sources including tariffs and taxation, ransoms, pillaging and asset seizure, smuggling, donations, spoils of war, and oil (“Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham),” 2017). The group controls a larger part of Idlib province where it imposes some taxes to the civilians. Moreover, since the government in such areas has no control, the organization also collects import tariffs on products that enter the areas it has control. The spoils of wars (ghanima) also act as a source of funding in the black markets for the group apart from being used for attacks (“Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham),” 2017). Civilian and military personnel are also sometimes kidnapped for ransoms, and this acts as a significant source of funding for the organization. Other means of income include foreign donations and looting.
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- Hashim, A. S. (2014). The Islamic State: From al‐Qaeda Affiliate to Caliphate. Middle East Policy, 21(4), 69-83.
- Lister, C. (2016). Profiling Jabhat al Nusra. Brookings, July, 9-10.
- Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). (2017). Counter Extremism Project. Counterextremism.
- BBC News. (2017). Profile: Syria’s al-Nusra Front – BBC News. BBC News.
- Shay, S., & Karmon, E. (2016). Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Did Jabhat al-Nusra Split from Al-Qaeda?. ICT.