As Syria truce holds, al-Qaida affiliate denounces it
BEIRUT >> With much of Syria calm for the past 24 hours, a powerful al-Qaida-linked group sharply criticized the U.S.-Russianbrokered cease-fire, saying Tuesday its real aim was to keep President Bashar Assad in power.
The extremist group was in talks with other rebel factions for a possible merger, a move that could dash Washington and Moscow’s hopes of distancing it from the wider insurgency and sabotage the truce.
The denunciation of the deal came as activists and state media said the truce, which took effect at sunset Monday, was holding despite some violations. The Syrian army said it would abide by the cease-fire until midnight Sunday, while maintaining its right to defend itself against any violations.
The truce excludes al-Qaida’s affiliate, known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and the more powerful Islamic State group, which are both designated terrorist organizations by the United Nations. The first week will be crucial: During that time, all fighting between Assad’s forces and the rebels is to stop, although Assad’s forces can continue airstrikes against IS and alQaida-linked militants.
If the calm holds for seven days, the U.S. and Russian militaries would then set up a new center to coordinate strikes against IS and the alQaida affiliate, previously known as the Nusra Front.