The United States will declare the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group battling to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, a “foreign terrorist organization,” documents showed Tuesday.
The State Department has not formally announced the move to blacklist the group, but posted the declaration in the Federal Register, in a document that described the Al-Nusra Front as an alias of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Al-Nusra Front is one of the most effective of several armed groups fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime, raising concerns in the West that hard-line Islamists are hijacking the 21-month-old revolt.
The group has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings that killed scores of people, and has said it hopes to replace the Assad family’s four-decade-old regime with a strict Islamic state.
The State Department linked the group to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has carried out scores of massive bombings targeting Shiite civilians and regularly targeted US Forces before their withdrawal a year ago.
“We’ve had concerns that Al-Nusra is little more than a front for Al-Qaeda in Iraq, (which) has moved some of its operations into Syria,” State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier this week.
She said the State Department would “have more to say about this” in the coming days.
Declaring the Al-Nusra Front a terrorist group would entail freezing its assets and banning Americans from any transactions with the group, which could complicate efforts to provide aid to Syria’s fragmented rebellion.