Eleven Islamist rebel groups in Syria have announced they no longer recognise the authority of the main opposition alliance, the National Coalition. Their announcement also calls for the Syrian opposition to unite under an ‘Islamic framework’. Its signatories include members of the Free Syrian Army as well as more radical Islamists – among them the powerful al-Nusra Front, which has links to al-Qaeda. The announcement appears timed to damage the National Coalition leader while he is in US to meet the US Foreign Secretary John Kerry.
The moderate, Western-backed National Coalition, based in Istanbul, has accused the Islamists of prioritising the establishment of a sharia state over the overthrow of President Assad. There are reports that Christians in north and eastern Syria, where the rebel Islamist groups are strong, are anxious and now preparing to leave their country, fearing the local introduction of sharia (Islamic law).