Abu Mohammad al-Golani, the leader of Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra, has in a video statement announced the group is severing ties with the al-Qaeda and changing its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham.
Golani in his first video appearance said the new group will have “no affiliation to any external entity”, reports CNN.
However, the U.S. officials quickly dismissed the rebranding as a public relations ploy.
The so-called breakup comes less than two weeks after Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. and Russia had agreed to cooperate in Syria against al Nusra.
The decision was taken in an effort to restore the cessation of hostilities and significantly reduce violence in the war-ravaged country.
al-Qaeda has given the split its blessing, according to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, who has been elevated as the second high in command in the terror group.
Masri would replace al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Zawahiri in a separate message also expressed support for the decoupling.
Meanwhile, Golani said the change does not represent an ideological split but is intended to remove the excuse used by the international community led by the U.S. and Russia to bombard and displace Muslims under the pretense of targeting Jabhat al Nusra.
The U.S. State Department had in 2012 added al Nusra to the list of aliases for al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The State Department has, however, said the change in name does not alter Washington’s perception of the group.
“We judge any organization, including this one, much more by its actions, its ideology, its goals,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
He added, “We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves. … Thus far, there’s no change to our views about this particular group. We certainly see no reasons to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different. And they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.