US-backed Hazm Movement disbands after Al Nusrah attack

B-7q9s5VEAArkB_

The flag of al Qaeda flies over Hazm’s 46th Brigade in Aleppo

The US-backed Hazm Movement, or Harkat Hazm, has officially disbanded after suffering a major defeat by al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. The most recent fighting between the Al Nusrah Front and Hazm Movement began last week after Al Nusrah declared war on Hazm. The declaration of war came after Hazm arrested and killed at least one Nusrah commander in Syria’s Aleppo province. According to a Dutch fighter in Al Nusrah, Hazm killed a commander named Abu Isa Tabqa.

Over the weekend, Al Nusrah launched an offensive on several Hazm positions in the Aleppo countryside. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported that Al Nusrah took over the “46th Brigade, Meznaz, Kafar Nouran, al-Mashtal, and Ref al-Mohandsin” in Aleppo. According to SOHR, around 80 people were killed in the fighting, with 50 of those being from Hazm. As a result of the defeats, the Hazm Movement released a statement yesterday saying that the group has been dissolved.

In the same statement, Hazm also said that its fighters will join Jabhat al Shamiyya, or the Levant Front. The Levant Front is a coalition of groups in Aleppo which includes the al Qaeda ally Ahrar al Sham, and the Jaysh al Mujahideen and Harakat Nour al Din al Zenki, as well as other smaller groups. Two of these groups, Jaysh al Mujahideen and Harakat Nour al Din al Zenki, have previously been supported by the US with BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.

In a statement also released yesterday, the Al Nusrah Front said that the group will “continue to pursue the heads and leaders of that criminal gang [referring to Hazm] so they can receive the penalty of their injustice and oppression,” according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group. Al Nusrah goes on to say that affiliation with Hazm is not a crime and that Hazm fighters should turn themselves into a sharia or Islamic court for judgment. The jihadist group is also demanding that Hazm “Hand over the corpses of Sheikh Abu Issa al Tabqa and the two brothers Abu al Jarrah and Abu Malik al Homisiyin to any party [of] their wish; otherwise, we will not rule out that they were handed over to external parties.” Additionally, the jihadist group is demanding that Hazm disclose the fate of several other missing Al Nusrah fighters.

The Al Nusrah Front and the Hazm Movement have clashed in the recent past. In January, the Al Nusrah Front released a video in which it accused Hazm of targeting civilians, as well as torturing its prisoners. The groups then fought each other at the Sheikh Salman camp in Aleppo. After this, Hazm called Al Nusrah “takfiris” while the Islamic Front tried to act as an intermediary. [For more information on this round of infighting, see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front battles Western-backed rebels outside Aleppo.]

The Al Nusrah Front has targeted other US-backed rebel groups in the past. Last November, Al Nusrah and its allies in Jund al Aqsa, a group composed largely of foreign fighters, overran the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) in Idlib province. Al Nusrah captured the SRF stronghold of Deir Sonbol, forcing the SRF’s leader, Jamaal Maarouf, to flee. Al Nusrah and its allies also targeted the SRF throughout the Jabal al Zawiya area of Idlib. [For more on the infighting with the SRF, see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front forces Western-backed rebel group to flee base in Idlib.]

Prior to the internecine fighting that broke out this year, the two groups had cordial relations and often allied with each other on the battlefield against the Syrian regime. In September of 2014, a Hazm fighter was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying that “Nusrah doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusrah.”

The Hazm Movement has also fought alongside several al Qaeda allies inside Syria. Last October, Hazm released a video showing its fighters using one of its US-supplied TOW missiles on a Syrian Army tank. The missile was fired as multiple rebel groups battled government forces in Handarat, Aleppo. One group was the Chechen-led Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, which considers itself the Syrian branch of the al Qaeda-allied Caucasus Emirate.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

Tags: , ,

10 Comments

  • mike merlo says:

    this is all part of the Obama Plan of Leading With Ones Behind. So the Fumblelina’s in the US Intel Community have once again demonstrated their prowess & expertise in the arcane nuances in the various manifestations of Limited Warfare. So this is it! American Tax Dollars at work. This beyond being a joke its embarrassing. If ‘this’ is the ‘End Product’ why is the present Administration even bothering with ‘all this.’ I wonder how long before our new brothers in arms, Iranians & their Iraqi Militias, turn their weapons on the US Military Personnel & Contractors there to help them.

    • IronV says:

      It’s an utter folly to arm any of these groups. Operation Iraqi Freedom unleashed a terrible storm of religious and ethnic savagery across the middle east. There is no cure for it. The only thing we can do is manage the direct threats to the U.S.

      My god what a mess.

      • Fred says:

        This is why we can’t arm the Syria rebels. They are unreliable at best. FSA has been collapsing everywhere in Idlib- where are those soldiers going? Eventually they’ll all be in Nusrah and they’ll take their guns with them.

        The idiots who want to arm the rebels need to realize that THAT SHIP HAS LONG AGO SAILED.

  • IronV says:

    “We should be arming the rebels!!!’

    Great idea. Give them some more sophisticated weapons. After all, that strategy has worked so well with the Iraqi army.

    • mike merlo says:

      “We should be arming the rebels!!!’ Why not. Both sides are our enemy so who cares who ends up with them as long as they’re not being used against the Kurds, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan or Egypt as long as Sisi is in charge

      • Vyom says:

        @mike
        But who will make sure that last standing guy doesn’t use them against these countries you listed? If your answer is America then you are back to the starting point. If you arm them now you must do the cleaning act if not now then 10 years down the line.

        • mike merlo says:

          @Vyom
          at some point in time, which is already happening, those listed & those that aren’t will have to fight on their own. Its quite obvious that the USA is not a reliable partner/Ally. So anybody foolish enough to depend on the USA deserves whatever fate awaits them.

          “10 years down the line,” I don’t think so. Whatever “cleaning act” one warrants needs to be put in play asap. Its just a matter of whether the US is clever/adept enough to ‘navigate’ their way through this “briars patch.” Unfortunately over the last 4 to 5 decades I haven’t ‘seen’ anything that would leave me to believe that the Fumblelina’s in the US Intelligence Community have the ‘moxie’ to responsibly execute such an effort

          • Fred says:

            Forgive me if I don’t want to base our foreign policy on the theory of “we will eventually betray you”. How about if instead of doing that we avoid biting off more than we can chew, focus on fighting only necessary wars with well established goals and strategies, and leave situations with no good outcome alone.

  • bobathome says:

    Mike Merlo: FTFY “Leading With One’s Behind”.

    This is what happens when your knowledge of the Middle East is the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” AND you have no knowledge of “War in Desert” or “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”.

    I’d vote for arming the Kurds and quadrupling our arms shipments to Israel.

  • James Albright says:

    The same al-Qaeda members that were killing US soldiers in Afghanistan, who according to recently disclosed Osama bin Laden papers, left Pakistan and joined the US and NATO conspiracy with the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organization to violently overthrow Gadaffi in Libya were then recruited by Stevens at the Bengazi Compound in Libya and some of them were trained, armed and financed in Jordan by the US to fight in the ongoing US, NATO, Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to violently overthrow Assad in Syria.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis