World News

Nov 23, 2013 1:32 AM by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Syrian Muslim rebel groups say they have unified

BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian Islamic rebel brigades have announced they've merged into a single organization.

The groups issued a joint statement saying the "Islamic Front" unites rebel groups who want to transform Syria into an Islamic state after they overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad.

The merger is intended to hold off surging government forces and stop rival groups from seizing more opposition-held territory. A spokesman says it also is meant to stave off challenges from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a powerful rebel brigade composed mostly of foreign Sunni fighters.

Another powerful al-Qaida linked group, the Nusra Front, did not join the unified brigades. The Islamic Front spokesman says the Nusra Front wanted groups to join under its banner.

The spokesman also says the Islamic Front will not have relations with the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, which has seen its influence erode as rebels move toward generous Gulf donors.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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