Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), is no longer on the terrorist list of Canada or the U.S., CBC News reports.
By operating under a new alias and essentially being cleared as a vital national security threat, Canadians can now travel to fight with the group, donate money to its coffers and disseminate the group’s propaganda — all without being accused of or charged with aiding and abetting terrorists, according to CBC.
HTS has been able to emerge with a new identity just as it is accreting other Islamic extremist groups and recruiting new blood into its network.
It’s not a new strategy for the jihadists, CBC notes, who have successfully morphed from one organization to another over the years, with the result being that many Syrians aren’t even certain what the group has been trying to achieve and with whom it is aligned. The latest transformation seems to have convinced many people that the group is no longer a prodigy of al-Qaida.
HTS, or the Organization for Conquest in the Levant, was originally an al-Qaida foreign legion dubbed Jabha al-Nusra (the Support Front) that was sent to foment Islamic terror in Syria from its home base of Iraq in 2011. Those orders came from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then the commander of Iraq’s al-Qaida and now the the caliph of ISIS itself.
Both the U.S. and Canada placed Jabha al-Nusra on their terrorist lists in 2012 but the U.S-led coalition against ISIS has often left the Syrian offspring untouched as it has continued to expand and conducted the typical operations of Islamic terrorism: killing “infidels,” enslaving women, stoning moderate Muslims and obliterating the structures and icons of other religions.
Yet when al-Nusra became HTS it was removed from the terror list, and the U.S. State Department has even told CBC News that HTS members are no longer consider terrorists.
When asked by CBC News how the omission to list HTS as a terrorst group might affect future prosecutions of HST supporters in Canada, the Public Prosecution Service of Public Safety Canada responded: “The PPSC cannot respond to hypothetical questions or questions asking how the laws relating to terrorism offences would apply in hypothetical cases.”
The mystery of why HTS has alluded the terrorist list may lie in the fact that one of its affiliates is the Zenaida Brigade, a jihadi group from Aleppo that soaked up a lot of U.S. aid and military assistance during the Obama administration’s flirtation with the Syrian Free Army, a ragtag assortment of soldiers and mercenaries with mixted motives and varying ideological persuasions.
The former administration only stopped sending the Zenki Brigade money when Amnesty International indicted the thugs for the murder of Orthodox Christian priests. They even video-taped themselves beheading a boy.