The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, claimed credit today for two suicide attacks that occurred within the past two weeks.
The Syrian terror group claimed credit for the attacks in the capital of Damascus and the town of al-Shadadi, which it took over just days ago, in a series of statements released on its Twitter site. The statements were obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
In the first statement, the Al Nusrah Front said it launched a complex suicide attack, or a “storming” operation, as the group calls it, against the “al-Thalatheen in the al-Yarmouk camp in Damascus,” according to SITE. A suicide bomber, identified as Abu al Fawz al Ansari, “drove directly, immersing himself in the heart of the barracks of the [thugs] on al-Thalatheen Street,” and killing an estimated 70 members of President Assad’s security forces. After the suicide attack, Al Nusrah fighters lobbed mortar rounds at the complex, and then “15 of the Front’s lions stormed” the building.
Al Nusrah released photographs of the suicide attack and the fighters launching mortars at the Damascus compound [see images above].
In a separate communiqué, the Al Nusrah Front detailed the takeover of the town of al-Shadadi in the northeastern province of Hasakah. In the statement, the group indicated that it assaulted a military headquarters with a suicide attack.
“As for the city, no one was left except some apostates who escaped the martyrdom-seeking operation in the military security headquarters, and the mujahideen besieged them and tightened the noose around them,” the Al Nusrah Front stated.
This is consistent with previous reports of suicide attacks in al-Shadadi, which until today have not been claimed [see Threat Matrix report, Suicide bombers kill 14 Syrian security personnel, and LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate seizes control of another town].
The Al Nusrah Front has used al Qaeda’s signature tactic — the suicide bomber and suicide assault team — to target Syrian security forces. Some of these attacks have been carried out in conjunction with supposedly secular Free Syrian Army units as well as with allied jihadist groups.
The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 51 of the 61 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). Nine suicide attacks have now been reported in Syria so far this year; Al Nusrah has claimed credit for eight of them.
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].
The al Qaeda affiliate’s ranks have been growing, and it is now estimated to have upwards of 10,000 fighters in its ranks.
Due to its organization and prowess on the battlefield, the terror group has become popular and is recruiting from other rival groups. The Nusrah Front has overrun four major military bases and conducted multiple storming operations on security and intelligence bases and headquarters throughout the country.