Damascus: The fear of al-Qaeda using Syria as a base to regain power in Middle East is growing stronger as a regional military commander for Al-Nusra Front, an ally group of al-Qaeda, said that his men did not fear death and they were determined to form an Islamic state.
Giving an interview to Associated Press, the militant commander, Sheikh Abu Ahmad, said, “Thanks to our strong faith we do not fear death, because we think that if you are killed at the hands of this regime, then we will be martyrs and we will go to paradise.”
“We want Shariah [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.”
It’s difficult to gauge how much power Jabhat al-Nusra has in the uprising. Although Abu Ahmad said 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.
The fear of Islamic extremism resonates deeply among Syria’s many ethnic and religious minorities.
The Assad dynasty has long tried to promote a secular identity in Syria, largely because it has relied heavily on its own Alawite base in the military and security forces in an overwhelmingly Sunni country.
Islamist rebel groups in Aleppo province, including the two largest, Liwa al-Tawhid and Al-Nusra Front, have rejected the National Coalition of opposition forces acting to unify Free Syrian Army rebels in return for greater Western support. The rise in Islamist sentiment has worried Western powers mulling arming the rebel opposition.
In Aleppo’s eastern district of Shaar, where Islamist fighters have a strong presence, demonstrators booed the rebel Free Syrian Army Friday in videos posted on the Internet by activists.
“The Free [Syrian] Army are thieves, we want an Islamic army,” the demonstrators chanted angrily as they marched through the streets.