Almost a given at this point.
RAS AL-AYN, Syria (AP) — A leader of an al-Qaida-inspired militant group fighting the regime in Syria said his men do not fear death and they are determined to form an Islamic state.
Jabhat al-Nusra — Arabic for “the Support Front” — has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and other attacks on regime targets across the country. The group has raised fears of a growing Islamic militant element among the forces seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.
“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 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 did not give his real name in an interview this week with The Associated Press or explain why he was using a nom de guerre. He and his fighters were reluctant to reveal much personal information or say what they did before the civil war.
It’s difficult to gauge how much power Jabhat al-Nusra has in the uprising. Although Abu Ahmed says only a tiny fraction of the group’s fighters are foreign, others have estimated that its fighters come from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Balkans and elsewhere. Many are veterans of previous wars who came to Syria for what they consider a new “jihad,” or holy war, against Assad.
Jabhat al-Nusra has become notorious for numerous suicide bombings targeting regime and military facilities. Syria’s rebels have tried to disassociate themselves from the bombings for fear their uprising will be tainted with the al-Qaida brand.