Family fun at the fair doesn’t usually bring to mind the black flags of al-Qaida, but that was the scene at an Aleppo festival hosted by the group’s Syrian and Iraqi branches, The Washington Post reports.
Bread and jihadist propaganda were distributed at the fair, but those were far from the only attractions. Video from the event shows children participating in an ice cream eating contest, with one boy wearing a Jabhat al-Nusra headband. There was even a tug-of-war contest between the two al-Qaida groups hosting the jihadist block party: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
It appears that by holding a family-oriented Ramadan festival the two groups are attempting to soften their image as some of the region’s most extreme — and effective — militants. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has claimed credit for a violent jailbreak from Abu Ghraib prison on Monday in which hundreds of convicted jihadists escaped, while Jabhat al-Nusra has been called Syria’s most effective rebel force compared to the corruption-plagued Free Syrian Army.