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Al-Nusra Front pledges allegiance to ISIL, says NGO

The reported pledge of allegiance from Al-Nusra this week comes in spite of Al-Qaeda's public disavowal of ISIL
Twitter photo purports to show embrace between Al-Nusra Front and ISIL fighters (@salafi_jihadi)

The al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the town of Albu Kamal, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

If confirmed, the alliance would be controversial and could represent a split within Al-Qaeda’s ranks. Previously, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has disowned ISIL.

"The pledge comes amid advances by ISIL in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria on the Iraqi border,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of SOHR, told AFP.

"They are rivals, but both groups are jihadist and extremists. This move will create tension now with other rebel groups, including Islamists, in the area.”

It is not known whether this involves just local fighters or signals a wider union.

Zawahiri very publicly disowned ISIL (also referred to as ISIS) in February announcing in a statement that his group “has no connection with the group called the ISIS, as it was not informed or consulted about its establishment.”

“It is not affiliated with al-Qaeda," Zawahiri said at the time, "and has no organisational relationship with it. Al-Qaeda is not responsible for ISIS's actions.”

An alliance between the two groups could signify recognition by the al-Nusra Front that ISIL’s rise to prominence has made it the world’s most visible “jihadist” group and has provoked aghast reactions from the world’s powers.

It marks a drastic change from previous months when in-fighting between Syrian opposition groups, including al-Nusra, and ISIL has resulted in thousands of deaths.

A tweet from an NPR producer claims that Al-Nusra Front has denied the unification: