Banner for the Al Nusrah Front, a jihadist group in Syria. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda in Iraq’s affiliate in Syria, has claimed credit for two more suicide attacks against Bashar al Assad’s military.
In a statement released on the Al Nusrah Front’s Twitter page, the group said it struck military targets in Homs and Hama in the past week, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. One of the attacks was carried out in conjunction with two other Syrian rebel groups.
The Al Nusrah Front said a suicide attack on a “military barracks” in the city of Al Qusair in Homs province on Jan. 23 was conducted by Abu Islam al Shami “after coordinating with the independent al-Farooq regiment and the Ashbal al-‘Aqida [Cubs of the Creed] Brigade,” according to SITE. Al Shami drove a truck packed with “nearly 20 tons of explosive materials” into “the heart of the barracks.”
The Al Nusrah Front also said a suicide bomber named Abu Abdul Jabbar al Najdi “detonated an Isuzu truck laden with 3.5 tons of explosive materials in the area of al-Salmiyya, and in one of the most secure areas” in Hama province on Jan. 21.
The group did not say how many Syrian soldiers and “thugs” were killed in either attack, but vowed to carry out further suicide strikes.
“The Al Nusrah Front promises its people in proud Homs that it will continue such blessed operations until it cleanses it of the filth of Nusayris [Alawhites] and grants relief to the Sunnis from their oppression,” one of the statements said.
Additionally, another suicide attack is reported to have taken place on Jan. 19 near a mosque in the southern city of Dara’a. The government blamed the Al Nusrah Front for the attack; Al Nusrah has not claimed the attack.
The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 48 of the 58 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011, according to a tally by The Long War Journal (note that multiple suicide bombers deployed in a single operation are counted as part of a single attack). Last week, the terror group claimed credit for a complex suicide assault in Sa’sa’, near the Golan Heights. Six suicide attacks have now been reported in Syria so far this year; Al Nusrah has claimed credit for five of them.
Al Nusrah has also served as the vanguard for jihadist forces in the major attacks on Syrian military bases. In concert with allied jihadist groups such as the Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Vanguard, Mujahedeen Shura Council, the Muhajireen Group, and Chechen fighters, as well as supposedly secular insurgents groups such as the Free Syrian Army, the terror group has overrun three large Syrian installations since last fall [see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front claims complex suicide assault on Syrian military base, for more information on the group’s joint operations].
An al Qaeda affiliate
On Dec. 11, 2012, the US designated the Al Nusrah Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The designation stated that the emir of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Du’a (a.k.a. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi al Husseini al Qurshi), “is in control of both AQI and Al Nusrah.”
At the same time, the US added two senior Al Nusrah leaders, Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab, both members of al Qaeda in Iraq, to the list of global terrorists; the US did not add the emir of Al Nusrah, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Julani, to the list, however. [See LWJ report, US adds Al Nusrah Front, 2 leaders to terrorism list, for information on the designation of the Al Nusrah Front and the two leaders.]
Despite Al Nusrah’s known affiliation with al Qaeda and its radical ideology, Syrian opposition groups, including the supposedly secular Syrian National Coalition, have rallied to support Al Nusrah. Immediately after the US designated Al Nusrah as a terrorist group, 29 Syrian opposition groups signed a petition that not only condemned the US’s designation, but said “we are all Al Nusrah,” and urged their supporters to raise Al Nusrah’s flag (which is the flag of al Qaeda) [see LWJ report, Syrian National Coalition urges US to drop Al Nusrah terrorism designation].