A screen shot of the video released on Feb. 26 by the Al Nusrah Front. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
A recently formed jihadist group known as the Al Nusrah Front claimed credit for suicide attacks in the Syrian capital of Damascus as well as in Aleppo. The Al Nusrah Front is one of two Islamist terror groups in Homs to have announced their existence in the past month to battle President Bashir al Assad’s regime.
The Al Nusrah Front to Protect the Levant released a 45-minute-long videotape today on the al Qaeda-linked Shumukh al Islam web forum. The video was translated by the SITE Intelligence group.
In the video, Al Nusrah said the “martyrdom-seeking operation” was executed “in revenge for our mother Umm Abdullah – from the city of Homs- against whom the criminals of the regime violated her dignity and threatened to slaughter her son,” SITE reported. The suicide bomber was identified as Abu al Bara’a al Shami, who is seen on the tape giving a martyrdom statement.
The video also shows “an excerpt of allegiances, operations, and training of the al-Nusra Front” as well as a fighter “amongst the masses in a public demonstration, advising them to do their prayers and adhere to the rituals of Islam.”
The Al Nusrah Front announced the formation of the “Free Ones of the Levant Brigades” in a YouTube video statement that was released on Jan. 23. In the statement, the group claimed an attack on security headquarters in Idlib.
“To all the free people of Syria, we announce the formation of the Free Ones of the Levant Brigades,” the statement said, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. “We promise Allah, and then we promise you, that we will be a firm shield and a striking hand to repel the attacks of this criminal Al Asad army with all the might we can muster. We promise to protect the lives of civilians and their possessions from security and the shabihah [pro-government] militia. We are a people who will either gain victory or die.”
In addition to the Al Nusrah Front, a second jihadist group has been activated in Homs in the past month. Last week, a group calling itself the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade said it had formed a martyrdom battalion and was prepared to carry out suicide attacks against Syrian forces. The group, which posed in front of a flag belonging to al Qaeda in Iraq, said it was part of the Free Syrian Army, which claims to be secular. The Free Syrian Army has blamed suicide attacks in Syria on Assad’s intelligence services. A group known as the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade was created to wage jihad in Iraq in 2005, and merged with al Qaeda in Iraq under the command of Ayman al Zawahiri.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has recently urged Muslims inside and outside of Syria to take up arms against the Syrian government. In a statement issued on Feb. 11 and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Zawahiri said: “I appeal to every Muslim and every free, honorable one in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, to rise to help his brothers in Syria with all what he can, with his life, money, wonders, opinion, and information.” Telling Syrians not to trust Turkey, the Arab League, or the West, he exhorted the “lions of the Levant” to “[d]evelop the intention of jihad in the Cause of Allah to establish a state that defends the Muslim countries and seeks to liberate the Golan and continue its jihad until it raises the banners of victory above the usurped hills of Jerusalem.”
Since the end of December, there have already been five suicide bombings in Syria. The Syrian government said that a pair of suicide bombers targeted security headquarters in Damascus on Dec. 23; over 40 people were reported killed and scores more were wounded in the blasts. On Jan. 6, the Syrian government said that a suicide bomber killed 25 people in an attack on security forces in Damascus. And on Feb. 10, a pair of suicide bombers killed 25 people while targeting security headquarters in Aleppo.
Al Qaeda in Iraq already has a strong presence in Syria [see LWJ report, Eastern Syria becoming a new al Qaeda haven]. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a regional al Qaeda affiliate, also is known to operate in Syria. Two of its senior leaders, Saudi citizens Saleh al Qarawi and Suleiman Hamad Al Hablain, have been added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists since November 2011. The terror group has denied any involvement in the Dec. 23 suicide attack.