The United States officially labelled the Syrian jihadist rebel group Jund al-Aqsa a “specially designated global terrorist” organisation on Tuesday as talks continued on securing a ceasefire in the war-riven country.
The US state department said the four-year-old group was originally a unit of the al-Nusra Front, the al Qaeda arm in Syria, before splitting off to carry out operations independently.
Today Jund al-Aqsa operates primarily in Idlib and Hama provinces, but remains “openly allied” with al-Nusra, already designated a terror group two years ago, the state department said.
It said Jund al-Aqsa was behind two suicide bombings in Idlib in March 2105 and a February 2014 “massacre” of 40 civilians in Maan in central Hama.
The designation, and parallel sanctions by the US treasury department, forbid US entities and individuals from any transactions with the group.
The designation came as US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov led talks in New York today aimed at preserving a ceasefire in Syria after the Syrian military declared the week-old truce over and launched new bombardments on rebel-held cities.
“The ceasefire is not dead,” Kerry insisted following the brief meeting of the International Syria Support Group, which one person in attendance described as “tense”.