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The head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front on Wednesday pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in an audio message, but distanced his group from claims it had merged with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"The sons of Al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri," Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in the recording.
But, he added, "we were not consulted" on an announcement by Al-Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Tuesday of a merger with Al-Nusra Front.
"Al-Nusra Front will not change its flag, though we will continue to be proud of the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq, of those who carry it and those who sacrifice themselves and shed their blood for it," said Jawlani, acknowledging he had fought in Iraq alongside the ISI, Al-Qaeda's Iraqi branch.
"We reassure our brothers in Syria that Al-Nusra Front's behaviour will remain faithful to the image you have come to know, and that our allegiance (to Al-Qaeda) will not affect our politics in any way," he added.