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Syria: Al-Qaeda-linked ISIS urges jihadists to unite - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Vehicles drive past a flag of the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fluttering at the entrance to the city of Raqqa, eastern Syria, on October 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Nour Fourat)

Vehicles drive past the flag of the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria at the entrance to the city of Raqqa, eastern Syria, on October 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Nour Fourat)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Mohamed Al-Adnani, called for the other jihadist groups operating in Syria to join forces in an audio recording posted online on Thursday.

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated group has recently emerged as one of the most influential actors in the civil war in Syria.

“We call for all jihadist leaders and soldiers and people to join the project of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as soon as possible,” Adnani said.

He warned against judging ISIS on the basis of “what the media portrays or through what our enemies say, including their false charges and lies,” calling instead for people to judge the group “by what you see and feel yourselves.”

The militant Islamist group seems to be seeking public support by providing humanitarian, medical and financial aid to Syrians in areas under its control, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

While experts on jihadism interpreted this step as the group “starting to implement Islamic Shari’a law,” Syrian anti-regime activists say the terrorist group is trying to polish its image following the “violations it has committed against Syrian society.”

Anti-regime websites are quoting the ISIS emir for the rural areas of Aleppo, Abu Saber Al-Tunisi, as saying that elements affiliated with his group have “set up and repaired a network of water pipelines for Atarib’s elementary school and installed 21 windows at the girls’ school,” adding that they have also provided the village with drinking water.

Tunisi pledged to provide the school with diesel over the winter, as well as financial aid to the families of people who have been killed or become permanently disabled while fighting in the civil war.

The emir said his group is ready to “cooperate with the local council and all the authorities in order to secure services for some of the neighbourhoods in the city that do not currently have access to water.

He added, “ISIS is coordinating with a number of doctors to provide free medical services and medicine.”

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, a member of the Higher Council of the Revolution in Aleppo, Yasser Al-Najjar, said: “The main goal of these activities is to enhance the organization’s image in the minds of Syrians,” adding, “ISIS has recently linked its military success with its ability to create a base of social support.”

Commenting on the same issue, the Lebanon-based radical cleric Omar Bakri told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “organization’s inclination to offer services in the areas under its control is a very normal thing, given that its approach aims to implementing Islam [i.e., principles of Islamic Shari’a].”

Bakri considered ISIS’s recent measures the “first step towards carrying out its project to establish a caliphate, given that it is not only fighting the [Bashar Al-Assad] regime, but also seeking to establish an Islamic state.”

For its part, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-revolution monitoring body based in the UK, said on Thursday that ISIS has distributed pamphlets in Saraqib urging school girls to “conform to the Islamic dress code” and warning that no student will be allowed to attend school if they do not comply.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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