|“||We are Syrian mujahedeen, back from various jihad fronts to restore God's rule on the Earth and avenge the Syrians' violated honour and spilled blood.||„|
|~ Unidentified al-Nusra militant in a video from 2012.|
Al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra (Arabic: جبهة النصرة), known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Arabic: جبهة فتح الشام) after July 2016, and also described as al-Qaeda in Syria or al-Qaeda in the Levant, was a Salafist jihadist organization fighting against Syrian government forces in the Syrian Civil War. Its aim was to establish an Islamic state in the country.
The al-Nusra Front was primarily made up of Syrian jihadists. Its goals were to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria and to create an Islamic emirate under sharia law, with an emphasis from an early stage on focusing on the "near enemy" of the Syrian regime rather than on global jihad. Syrian members of the group claimed that they are fighting only the Assad regime and would not attack Western states; while the official policy of the group was to regard the United States and Israel as enemies of Islam, and to warn against Western intervention in Syria, al-Nusra Front leader Julani stated that "We are only here to accomplish one mission, to fight the regime and its agents on the ground, including Hezbollah and others". In early 2014, Sami al-Oraydi, a top sharia official in the group, acknowledged that it is influenced by the teachings of al-Qaeda member Abu Musab al-Suri. The strategies derived from Abu Musab's guidelines included providing services to people, avoiding being seen as extremists, maintaining strong relationships with local communities and other fighting groups, and putting the focus on fighting the government.
Formed in 2012, in November of that year The Washington Post described al-Nusra as "the most aggressive and successful" of the rebel forces. In December 2012, the United States Department of State designated it a foreign terrorist organization, and in November 2013, it became the official Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
In March 2015, the group joined with other jihadist groups to form the Army of Conquest.In July 2016, al-Nusra formally re-branded as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham ("Front for the Conquest of the Levant").
The group frequently carried out suicide bombings.
In an Amnesty International report in July 2016, the al-Nusra Front was accused of torture, child abduction, and summary execution. In December 2014, al-Nusra Front fighters shot dead a woman execution-style on accusations of adultery. They have also stoned to death women accused of extramarital relations. Overall, they have "applied a strict interpretation of Shari'a and imposed punishments amounting to torture or other ill-treatment for perceived infractions. These can be considered war crimes.
The group is also reportedly guilty of inciting sectarianism. Members of the group were accused of attacking the religious beliefs of non-Sunnis in Syria, including the Alawis. New York Times journalist C. J. Chivers cites "some analysts and diplomats" as noting that al-Nusra Front and the The Islamic State "can appear less focused on toppling" the Assad government than on "establishing a zone of influence spanning Iraq's Anbar Province and the desert eastern areas of Syria, and eventually establishing an Islamic territory under their administration".
Following ISIL's separation from Al-Qaeda and their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's subsequent declaration of a worldwide caliphate, they tried to absord Al-Nusra Front, but al-Julani reaffirmed his oath of loyalty to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and refused to merge with ISIL. Shortly afterwards, ISIL drove Al-Nusra Front out of their primary Syrian stronghold of Raqqa and conquered their other holdings in Syria.
On 10 June 2015, al-Nusra fighters shot dead at least 20 Druze civilians in a village after one of them, a supporter of the Assad regime, opposed the expropriation of his house by a Nusra commander. Al-Nusra's leadership issued an apology and claimed that the killings had been carried out against the group's guidelines. Foreign Affairs magazine, which contends that Al-Jazeera is engaged in actively whitewashing Al-Nusra, said that there is absolutely no reference to the Druze in Al-Nusra's "apology", since Al-Nusrah forced the Druze to renounce their religion, destroyed their shrines and now considers them Sunni. Nusra and ISIL are both against the Druze, the difference being that Nusra was apparently satisfied with destroying Druze shrines and making them become Sunnis while ISIL wants to violently annihilate them as it does to Yazidis.
On 28 January 2017, following violent clashes with Ahrar al-Sham and other rebel groups, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham merged with four other groups to become Tahrir al-Sham.