Last updated: 11 May, 2013

Syrian Islamists to be added to UN sanctions list

The UN Security Council will add the Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian militants Al-Nusra Front to its sanctions blacklist next week, diplomats said Friday.

Following a move by France and Britain, the Islamist group, which has become one of the most feared fighting forces in Syria’s two-year-old conflict, will be subject to a global asset freeze from Tuesday, the diplomats told AFP.

A pledge of allegiance by Al-Nusra’s chief Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has caused divisions among the rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad.

The Assad government asked last month for the UN Security Council to blacklist Al-Nusra, but this was blocked by Britain and France, which do not recognize the Damascus government.

Britain and France made a separate application to the council’s Al-Qaeda sanctions committee, which should become valid on Tuesday.

While Syria had asked for Al-Nusra to be listed as an entity in its own right, Britain and France sought its listing as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, UN diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

The United States has already designated Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization.

Western nations are keen to see the sanctions blacklist send a signal that they are supporting Syria’s moderate opposition.

Al-Nusra, which wants a hardline Islamic state in Syria, has gained notoriety for suicide bombings alongside its reputation leading attacks on battlefronts across the country.

Tensions between Al-Nusra and Islamist rebels boiled over after the capture of Raqa, the first provincial capital to fall to opposition fighters.

In Tal al-Abyad in Raqa province, members of the Islamist Farouq brigade and other opposition fighters clashed with Al-Nusra for control after the withdrawal of regime troops.

Activists and observers have long warned that if the Assad regime falls, a battle between Al-Nusra and other rebel groups could follow.