On Feb. 2, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades “issued a formal statement claiming credit for a joint rocket strike with the Al Nusrah Front in Lebanon on Hezbollah sites in Hermel” that took place on Jan. 25, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The official statement confirmed tweets from both the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Al Nusrah Front in Lebanon that initially claimed the attack.
The fact that the two groups carried out a joint attack on Hezbollah isn’t all that startling; the two groups also claimed credit for a similar joint attack in Hermel in December 2013. And al Qaeda groups have been targeting Hezbollah with suicide and car bombs since mid-November of last year.
But what is interesting is the timing of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades’ official release.
On the same day that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed the latest joint attack in Hermel, al Qaeda General Command disowned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, which has been battling the Al Nusrah Front and other al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups in Syria. In fact, Al Fajr, al Qaeda’s exclusive distribution network for its online propaganda, “released three messages consecutively on Sunday night,” according to Adam Raisman of the SITE Intelligence Group. One was the statement from al Qaeda General Command on the ISIS; one was the statement from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades; and another is from Muhammad bin Mahmoud al Bahtiti, which has yet to be translated and addresses the situation in Syria, according to Raisman.
With al Qaeda’s denouncement of the ISIS, jihadists in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq will be forced to choose sides. Will they pick al Qaeda, or Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s rogue ISIS? The timing of the statement on the joint operation with the Al Nusrah Front could indicate that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades may be siding against the ISIS.