Jihadis bankroll aid efforts in Syria to win followers
Among those with money to throw around in the scrum for influence are groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which the State Department says has ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
To keep his small charity afloat in Aleppo where the cost of supplies have doubled and tripled in recent months, Abu Ahmad must cobble together funding from a range of donors that includes everyone from wealthy Syrian expatriates to charities in Europe.
He was cautiously receptive when fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra approached him offering to help with his relief efforts. One of the many groups fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Jabhat al-Nusra is a hardline Islamist organization that was officially classified as a terrorist organization by the US State Department on Wednesday and that is looked upon by many Syrians with trepidation.
“Before I met them, I thought they were tough and not easy to work with, but after working with them I found that the opposite of that is true,” Mr. Ahmad says, explaining that the group was better organized than some professional charities he’s worked with. “I don’t believe Jabhat al-Nusra will be bad. I think both the domestic and international media has deformed their image.”
Throughout Aleppo, rebel progress now has many residents no longer talking about if President Bashar al-Assad will fall but when. The confidence that a new future is within reach has many groups that will want a stake in post-Assad Syria vying for influence, and humanitarian aid has become one of their favored tools for reaching their soon-to-be constituents. Among those with money are jihadi groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which the State Department says has ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq.