Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate escapes from Canada’s terror list

by Evan Dyer, CBC

The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.

That complicates the task of prosecuting Canadians who travel to join the group, send it money or propagandize on its behalf.

It also illustrates the pitfalls of Canada following the lead of the U.S. in designating terror groups…

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (the Organization for Conquest in the Levant) began life as an expeditionary force called Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front), despatched into Syria in 2011 by the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now “caliph” of the Islamic State (ISIS). Jabhat al-Nusra was led by Syrian jihadist Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani.

The United States put the group on its terrorist list in 2012, as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and Canada followed suit.

Al-Baghdadi soon crossed into Syria himself, renouncing his allegiance to al-Qaeda and founding ISIS in April 2013…

[read more here]

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What’s In A Name? U.S. Takes Syria’s Al-Qaeda Off Terror Watchlists

by Whitney Webb, Mint Press News

It turns out that getting off the U.S.’ and Canada’s terror watchlist is as simple as changing your name. While the terror watchlist in the U.S. has long been both secretive and controversial – as “reasonable suspicion” is enough to label any individual a “terrorist” – terrorist groups tied to al-Qaeda have found that getting off the watchlist only requires minor rebranding.

The terror group, long known to most as Jabhat al-Nusra or the al-Nusra Front, has continued to function as al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria long after Daesh (ISIS) renounced its allegiance to the group in 2014. It was first placed on the U.S. and Canadian terror watchlists in 2012.

But by changing its name to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the group has managed to secure its removal from terror watchlists in both the U.S. and Canada, allowing citizens of those countries to donate money to the group, travel to fight with them and disseminate the group’s propaganda without incident.

In response, Nicole Thompson of the U.S. State Department told CBC News last Monday that while “we believe these actions are an al-Qaeda play to bring as much of the Syrian opposition under its operational control as possible, […] we are still studying the issue carefully.”

But the State Department is likely hesitant to label HTS a terror group, even despite the group’s link to al-Qaeda, as the U.S. government has directly funded and armed the Zenki brigade, a group that joined forces with al-Nusra under the HTS banner, with sophisticated weaponry…

[read more here]