A conservative Islamist rebel group said on Tuesday it would protect Syria’s minorities, pressing a campaign in Western media to address concerns about one of the most powerful insurgent forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Ahrar al-Sham is an ultra orthodox Salafist group and part of a military alliance including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front that captured nearly all of the northwestern province of Idlib from Assad earlier this year.

But in two opinion pieces this month – one in the Washington Post and a second in Britain’s Daily Telegraph – the group has distanced itself from al Qaeda’s brand of cross-border jihadism. It has denied organizational ties and sharing its ideology. […]