Revealing the real face of Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate
Faces of leading commanders in Syria's al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front were shown for the first time in a propaganda video released by the group this week.
The 43-minute film entitled The Heirs of Glory Two [Warathat al-Majid] is the latest piece of public relations for the anti-regime group and follows a very different line of subterfuge from earlier al-Qaeda videos.
The names of leading figures of Nusra are already known, but the video reveals their faces and voices for the first time.
The Nusra production includes "full-faced" interviews with two leading members of the group's Shura council, Abd al-Rahman Atwan [also known as Abu Abd al-Rahman] and Ahmed Salama Mabruk [Abu Faraj al-Masri].
A number of other top military commanders were also featured.
But the identity of Osama al-Absi al-Wahdi - more commonly known as Abu Mohammed al-Jolani - was not revealed.
In previous interviews the group's leader has either turned his face from the camera or had editors blur out his features.
Footage from recent Nusra battles with the regime are also shown, through high-tech overhead footage shot by drones.
|Read also: 'Curse your soul, Jolani': The inner-struggle of Syria's opposition
The al-Qaeda production also bizarrely includes quotes from noted linguist and writer Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky is quoted saying that the West has backed Arab dictators against the will of the people.
|[click to enlarge]
The Heirs of Glory Two main features are archived footage and interviews spliced with special effects.
The documentary then explains the West's alleged "role" in crushing the Syrian uprising.
It concludes by saying that the group has been left with no option but to wage war, as the world will not accept the will of the Syrian people.
It also paints glowing portraits of the "new generation" al-Qaeda militants who are viewed as the revolutionary vanguard for the group and leading the fight against Bashar al-Assad's regime.
It appears that the film was released to win hearts and minds in Syria after a series of mass anti-Nusra demonstrations took place across rebel-controlled territories.
Nusra fighters were seen as little better as Assad security forces when they stormed protests in Idlib province, beating protesters, smashing cameras and destroying the green-black-white pre-Baathist Syrian flag.
|The al-Qaeda production also bizarrely includes quotes from noted linguist and writer Noam Chomsky.
The militants also warned the crowds that the next time they would be dispersed with bullets, echoing earlier actions by the Syrian regime.
This did not deter Syrian protesters from storming a makeshift Nusra prison in a town in Idlib and freeing detainees.
Meanwhile, hundreds of anti-regime protests have spread across rebel territories - from Aleppo to Daraa - since a ceasefire came into force.
In most cases, protesters rejected extremism and are seen to be generally sympathetic towards the Free Syrian Army.
Analysts fear that Nusra's next step would be to take control of rebel-controlled Idlib province and turn it into an al-Qaeda emirate. This would mirror the Islamic State group's establishment of a "caliphate" in its territories in Syria and Iraq.
This would undoubtedly lead to a clampdown on activism, a harsh implementation of sharia law, and likely prolong the five-year Syria war which has cost as many as half-a-million lives.