New leader of Ahrar al Sham previously led Free Syrian Army unit

Just one day after Hassan Abboud and several top leaders of the Islamic Front were killed in a blast, the Islamic Front identified a new emir for Ahrar al Sham, one of its brigades. Abboud served as the head of the Islamic Front’s political office and the emir of Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda ally in Syria. Abboud and other Islamic Front leaders killed in the blast were mourned by several top al Qaeda leaders in Syria. And the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, officially eulogized the Islamic Front leaders.

The Islamic Front identified Sheikh Hashim al Sheikh, who is also known as Abu Jaber, as the emir of Ahrar al Sham in two announcements on its Twitter page.

According to a biography of Abu Jaber, he fought in the ranks of the Al Fajr Islamic Movement and later led the Musab Bin Umayr Battalion in Aleppo.

Abu Jaber’s path to lead one of the more radical Islamist groups in Syria serves as a cautionary tale for the US as it seeks allies in the Free Syrian Army to battle the Islamic State. Both the Al Fajr Islamic Movement and the Musab Bin Umayr Battalion were previously units in the Free Syrian Army. Al Fajr Islamic Movement fought under the command of the Al Nusrah Front and alongside the Chechen-led Muhajireen Army in November 2012, shortly before joining Ahrar al Sham.

To this day, even US-vetted Syrian rebel groups such as Harakat Hazm fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • Rhonda says:

    In an audio address of Ayman Al-Zawahiri about 10 days ago, released by Al-Bawaba News. he called Baghdadi the “Emir of the Faithful” and a “Great Leader”.
    The following was reported by the Long War Journal a few months ago, while IS was still in Syria fighting with Al Nasra, while they were still “ISIS”. Al Nasra embarked on a 2 week twitter campaign to get Zawahiri to address the infighting (Al-Nasra was actually created by ISI, and initially part of their branch in Syria, a became a subgroup that broke off).
    Zawahiri made a radio address, praising Baghdadi, and said that he is a great leader of battle, and he highly values and respects Baghdadi. He said that Baghdadi was welcome back, if he would leave Syria and return to Iraq. Is that not exactly what Baghdadi did?
    It seems to me that the problem is not that IS is too brutal, but was not following orders, and that the main problem of infighting is between Baghdadi and Al Nasra. Yet AQAP and AQIM support Baghdadi, and even Zawahiri himself.

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