In Summary
  • HTS is simply a cosmetic name-change for Al-Qaeda, they said.

  • In consolidating control of much of Idlib Province, it has eliminated or absorbed rival groups, and is modernising its propaganda on the web-savvy model of the Islamic State.

WASHINGTON,

Al-Qaeda is on the rise again in the shadow of the Islamic State group in Syria, 16 years after the jihadists shocked the United States in the September 11, 2001 attacks, experts said Monday.

They said that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Sunni group that last month seized control of the northern Syrian city of Idlib, is simply a "rebranding" of Al-Qaeda that is positioning itself as more moderate than the Islamic State in hopes of a resurgence.

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"ISIS may be today's preeminent terrorist threat, but Al-Qaeda in Syria is worrisome. It is Al-Qaeda's largest global affiliate at this point," said former White House counterterrorism director Joshua Geltzer.

Speaking on the current terror threat against the United States at the New America think tank, Geltzer and other experts said they expect HTS to take centre stage among jihadists as the Islamic State group loses ground on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq.

HTS is simply a cosmetic name-change for Al-Qaeda, they said.

Family members, first responders and others attend a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the National September 11 Memorial, September 11, 2017 in New York City. PHOTO | DREW ANGERER | GETTY IMAGES | AFP

In consolidating control of much of Idlib Province, it has eliminated or absorbed rival groups, and is modernising its propaganda on the web-savvy model of the Islamic State.

"The organisation itself seems to have more lives than a cat," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, co-author with Geltzer of a New America report on the current jihadist threat. 

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