Last updated: 11 April, 2013

Syrian activists reject Al-Qaeda’s call for Islamic state

Syrian activists on Thursday dismissed as “blatant interference” a weekend call by Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri for an Islamic state to be established in the strife-torn country.

“The Local Coordination Committees in Syria completely reject the statement by … Zawahiri in which he called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria,” said the LCC, a network of peaceful activists on the ground.

“The LCC condemns (Zawahiri’s) blatant interference in Syria’s internal affairs,” it added.

The LCC’s statement comes a day after Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, pledged allegiance to Zawahiri but distanced itself from claims of a merger with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The LCC made no mention of Al-Nusra’s statement, while debate rages among activists over whether the powerful jihadists should be recognised as a legitimate part of Syrian revolutionary forces.

Analysts warn that two years into a revolt that has left more than 70,000 people dead, according to UN figures, sectarianism and extremism could sweep away the ideals with which activists first took to the streets in a popular uprising two years ago.

“Only Syrians will decide their country’s future. The LCC says once again that the Syrian revolution began in order to achieve freedom, justice and a civil, democratic, pluralist state,” the statement said.

It added that the anti-Assad revolt is aimed at setting up in Syria “a state for all its citizens”.