The Syrian military and its ally Hezbollah killed more than 170 Islamists from the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and the Islamic Front during an ambush in an area just outside of the capital of Damascus. “Saudis, Qataris, and Chechens” were among those killed, according to the government-owned news agency.
“A military source said that an army unit eliminated scores of terrorists of ‘Jabhat al Nusrah’ and the so-called “Islam battalion” according to intelligence information in an ambush in the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Countryside,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA, reported.
An estimated “175 terrorists were killed” and “most of them [were] Saudis, Qataris, and Chechens.” according to SANA.
The SANA report was corroborated by the independent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as well as Al Manar, a news outlet run by Hezbollah.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “no less than 70 fighters from Islamic battalions, were killed by an ambush by Hezbollah and regime forces, between the towns of Al-Eteba and Myda’a in the eastern Ghouta.” An additional 89 fighters were separated from the main group and “they may have been killed [in] the ambush.”
The Observatory often uses the term “Islamic battalions” to describe the Islamic Front, the coalition of six major Islamist brigades that was formed late last year and is allied with the Al Nusrah Front. Abu Khalid al Suri, a senior Islamic Front leader who was killed last weekend, served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s personal representative for Syria.
Al Manar reported that “up to 170 terrorist militants, including foreigners” were killed “through a perfect ambush” by the Syrian military. Al Manar did not report on Hezbollah involvement in the attack.
Foreign fighters often join with Al Nusrah or the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, but also are known to fight in the brigades of the Islamic Front.
Chechens fight within the ranks of the Muhajireen Army, which has split into two factions. One faction fights for Al Nusrah, and another fights for the ISIS. Saifullah al Shishani, a Chechen commander who led a large unit in Al Nusrah, was killed by the Syrian military in early February during fighting in Aleppo.