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Al-Qaeda group releases video of first American suicide bomber in Syria

Published time: July 27, 2014 12:14
Edited time: July 29, 2014 08:37

Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki (screenshot from AP Video)

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The Syrian Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist organization aligned with Al-Qaeda, has released a video of a US citizen who blew himself up in a suicide attack in Syria. He is believed to be the first US national to carry out a terror attack in the country.

The American who joined the Syrian rebels becomes the first known US suicide bomber

The man was identified as Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, a US citizen from Florida He went under a different name in Al-Nusra - Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki (Abu Hurayra the American).

Abu Hurayra was among four Al-Nusra men who carried out suicide bombings on army positions in Idlib province, northwestern Syria on May 25. Dozens were killed and wounded, though exact numbers of casualties are still unknown.

In the 17-minute video about ‘the life and death’ of Abu Hurayra, the 22-year-old American from Florida appears smiling and saying he looked forward to going to heaven.

“I want to rest in the afterlife, not in this world... My heart is not at peace here. Hopefully it will be in heaven,” Abu Hurayra says in broken Arabic in the YouTube footage posted on Friday by Al-Nusra Front’s channel.

He sits with three jihadists, allegedly other suicide bombers. One of them was identified as the jihadist from the Maldives. Abu Hurayra talks about his background and life since he arrived in Syria in 2013.

Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki (screenshot from AP Video)

“I came to Syria without money to buy a rifle or a pouch. God gave me a rifle and a pouch and everything, and... (Then) he gave me even more,” he said.

US law enforcement and counterterrorism officials confirmed the suicide bombing and said they have identified the American.

The video released right after the attack shows a huge explosion. Then a young, bearded man - Abu Hurayra - cradling a cat appears.

The parents of Abu Salha own a grocery store in Florida, his father is from Jordan and mother is a convert to Islam, local US media outlets said.

Syria plunged into civil war in 2011 when peaceful uprisings against Assad descended into violence. More than 150,000 people have been killed and millions more have been displaced in the three years since fighting began.

The rebels are made up of a very loose coalition of opposition groups, some of whom - like Al-Nusra Front - have openly affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Al-Nusra Front, operating in Syria and Lebanon, was created in 2012 during the Syrian war. Its aim is to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s government.

Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki (screenshot from AP Video)

According to Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, there are about 12,000 foreign fighters in Syria. These numbers show a stunning 50 percent increase in just three months. Of them, more than 1,000 are from Europe and more than 100 are from the US, he said.

“What is also of concern is that there are a number of veteran Al-Qaeda individuals that are now in Syria, taking advantage of the really permissive environment that exists there – basically the opportunity to train and prepare to carry out attacks against the West,” he added.

According to Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, there are about 12,000 foreign fighters in Syria. These numbers show a stunning 50 percent increase in just three months. Of them, more than 1,000 are from Europe and more than 100 are from the US, he said.

“What is also of concern is that there are a number of veteran Al-Qaeda individuals that are now in Syria, taking advantage of the really permissive environment that exists there – basically the opportunity to train and prepare to carry out attacks against the West,” he added.

Members of Islamist rebel group al-Nusra Front prepare a home made mortar in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood (Reuters / Hamid Khatib)