Nusra Front leader Abu Muhammad al-Juolani confirmed late on Thursday that his group has formally split from al-Qaeda and has renamed itself as Jabhat Fath al-Shaam (Levantine Conquest Front).
“The creation of this new front aims to close the gap between the jihadi factions in the Levant,” Joulani said in his first televised appearance, soon after Nusra released the first photo of the leader ever seen publicly. “By breaking our link, we aim to protect the Syrian revolution.”
“We thank the leaders of al-Qaeda for understanding the need to break links.”
He said the decision was made to “expose the deception of the international community, namely the US and Russia, in their relentless bombardment and displacement of the Muslim masses of Syria under the pretext of bombing al-Nusra Front”.
The new group “will have no links whatsoever with foreign parties”, he added.
Joulani’s comments came several hours after al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared to give his blessing to the anticipated split with its Syrian affiliate in an audio recording released on YouTube.
Al-Nusra first surfaced on the internet in early 2012 to claim responsibility for suicide bombings in Aleppo and Damascus.