Seven anti-regime Islamic military forces in Syria have now established an “Islamic Coalition” grouping together the al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and other militant Salafi groups. They have issued a charter - “Mashru’ Umma,” or an [Islamic] Nation’s Agenda - proposing a unified “military, political, social and Islamic” agenda which includes the imposition of Shari’a law after the overthrow of the Asad regime.

The Syrian uprising started in the spring of 2011 with weekly demonstrations by unarmed civilians. These were followed by the establishment of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) by deserters from the Syrian army. The first al-Qa’ida-linked Syrian military group, Jabhat al-Nusra, was set up in January 2012. In March this year, it branched out with a faction loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qa’ida affiliate. Members of these two organizations – which have proved to be the most aggressive and successful among the opposition forces – come from the Middle East, Chechnya, Europe and as far afield as the US. (CONTINUED - 714 WORDS)