The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it placed Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian group with links to al Qaeda in Iraq, on its list of foreign terror organizations.
Jabhat al-Nusra, which officials said last week to the Wall Street Journal has ties to the Qaeda network, has proven to be one of the most effective groups fighting in the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011. There are now more than 500,000 registered refugees due to the conflict, according to a United Nations refugee agency.
The group claimed responsibility for nearly 600 attacks ranging from suicide operations to small arms and improvised explosive device detonations in major cities across Syria, and civilians have been killed, the State Department said.
It “has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by [al Qaeda in Iraq] to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes,” the State Department said in a statement.
The action by the State Department freezes the group’s U.S. assets and bars support for it, though the Journal report from last week said such a listing would be largely symbolic, as Jabhat al-Nusra isn’t believed to have any money or assets that could be targeted inside the U.S.