Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is in a cyber propaganda war against its erstwhile fellow jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS) organisation and the Syrian regime and its “western allies”.
Without a hint of irony, Al Nusra has been engaged in a hashtag campaign on Twitter against ISIS, highlighting in religious terms the "gratuitous" nature of the latter’s “Iraqi-style” violence under the leadership of the Iraqi Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Disparaging tweets with the hashtag #thetruthaboutBaghdadi’sstate are plentiful.
A man cursed ISIS for “outdoing the rejectionists [the Syrian regime and its Shiite allies] and the Americans in killing jihadist leaders in Iraq and the Syria”.
A tweet discredited ISIS leaders' religious credentials, saying its advisory council consists of "apostates" from Iraq's former Baath party, while another called ISIS members “riff-raff in their own countries with no jobs, no money and nothing to eat”.
Other tweets claimed a mass defection from the ranks of ISIS in Syria.
In its most recent propaganda video, a 50-minute long documentary, Al-Nusra showcases its "victories" against the Syrian government troops on the Golan Heights in south-western Syria as well as advances in other parts of the country.
Masked fighters are shown seizing Syrian army positions and weapons in Quneitra in the Golan Heights, 75 percent of which Al-Nusra claims to have liberated.
It also shows similar so-called gains in the northern city of Maarat Al-Numan and other “liberated” towns where fighters are shown receiving a hero's welcome.
Peppered with vox pops of Syrian men, a woman and a child—all happy to see the Nusra jihadists on the streets--and archive footage of the Geneva conference on Syria, the video makes a strong point of the front’s rejection of the conference as the creation of “evil powers” and “the Protestant-Zionist alliance”.
The video is narrated over a robustly ordinary song- similar in tune to Gulf-style music but with lyrics to reflect the Nusra fighters’ heroism and the religious duty of jihad.
In the opening scene, a phone conversation is heard between Al-Nusra's leader Abu Mohamed Al-Julani and a jihadist, Abu Al-Zubair Al Hamawi, highly acclaimed by the front for a suicide bombing he carried out against Syrian troops. Both men sound surprisingly soft-spoken and civil.
The song choice twinned with the somewhat restrained footage appear to be an attempt to paint Al-Nusra Front in a more human light.
For Al Qaeda sympathisers, the documentary promises a surprise appearance of the organisation’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahry.
In his brief appearance in the final scene of the documentary, he makes a rather calm call for Muslims to unite behind jihad and for all jihadists to work together.
Al-Zawahry’s guest appearance might be one way for Al-Nusra to dismiss comments circulating on Twitter that it will soon cut ties with Al-Qaeda.
Al-Nusra’s latest release, ‘Ways of Survival’, was posted on 13 February on YouTube and widely shared on Twitter.