U.S. Travel Warning: Al Qaeda-Affiliated Syrian Rebels Have 'Claimed Nearly 600 Attacks'

By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 1, 2013 | 11:09pm EDT

Syrian rebels from the al Qaeda-affilated al-Nusrah Front. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - While President Barack Obama is now asking Congress to authorize him to use military force against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad because that regime used chemical weapons on its own people, the State Department is maintaining a travel warning advising Americans not to travel to Syria because the al-Nusrah Front, the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria--which is participating in the rebellion seeking to overthrow Assad--has carried out about 600 attacks in the country since November 2011.

These al Qaeda terrorist attacks, according to the State Department, have killed many Syrian civilians.

"There is also a threat from terrorism, including groups like al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) affiliated al-Nusrah Front," says the current State Department travel warning on Syria. "Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks--ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations---in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. Public places such as government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces have been targeted."

The bolded language in this travel warning--emphasizing that the al Qaeda affiliate fighting in the Syrian opposition has been targeting places such as "shopping areas" was put there by the State Department in the online posting of its warning.

"During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed," then-State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a department's press statement last Dec. 11.

In a statement published May 16, the State Department said that Muhammad al-Jawlani, the leader of the al-Nusrah Front, had recently "pledged allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qa’ida’s leader."

When the Obama Adminisration first officially named the al-Nusrah Front as an al Qaeda affiliate and a terrorist organzation, other elements in the Syrian rebel coalition--which the Obama administration supports--objected to what the Obama Administration had done.

"In December 2012, the Obama Administration designated the Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and as an alias of Al Qaeda in Iraq pursuant to Executive Order 13224," said a Congressional Research Service report published on June 14. "Reactions from some Syrian opposition leaders and armed groups were negative. Several armed groups made statements of solidarity with Al Nusra, and prominent civilian figures, including then-President Khateeb of the SC [National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces], requested that the U.S. government reconsider the designation."

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