Islamist group bids for Syrian support

Feb. 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM

ALEPPO, Syria, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- A group labeled a terrorist organization by the United States says it is distributing bread in an attempt to gain support in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

Jabhat al-Nusra, the Nusra Front, appears to be well-funded, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported. Its humanitarian programs are winning loyalty in the city, the newspaper said.

Aleppo has been contested for months by Syrian rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. When rebels seized the bread stores, supplies disappeared, and Assad loyalists mounted angry protests accusing the Free Syrian Army of theft.

Now, Jabhat al-Nusra runs the bakeries and bread stores.

Abu Yahya manages the operation in the Miesseh district, sitting in a bakery office beside a wall map with population numbers marked on it.

He said the bakery sells bread at less than half what stores charge and gives some away.

"We counted the population of every street to assess the need for the area," Yahya told the Telegraph. "We provide 23,593 bags of bread every two days for this area. This is just in one district. We are calculating the population in other districts and doing the same there."

Jabhat al-Nusra is using tactics similar to those used by Hamas and Hezbollah elsewhere, with effective grassroots organizing to win the loyalty of the population, the report said.

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