Turkistan Islamic Party shows fighters on frontlines in northwestern Syria

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Jihadists from the Turkistan Islamic Party fighting in the Al Ghab plain

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), an Uighur jihadist group that is affiliated with al Qaeda and operates in Central and South Asia, has published photos showing its fighters engaging in combat with Syrian government forces in Hama and Latakia provinces. The photos and fighting come as the Assad regime, backed by Shiite militias and Russian airstrikes, has launched an offensive in the Al Ghab plain of northern Hama.

The photos show TIP fighters targeting regime forces with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades (RGPs), heavy machine guns, and anti-air weapons. Two images show the use of a anti-tank missile, while another pair show the “spoils” gained in the fighting, including light machine guns and ammunition. In other photos, the regime forces are seen retreating. The jihadist group says in the captions that it is “standing up strongly to the Nusayri army [derogatory term aimed at the Assad regime] and the Russians.”

In the last two photos, the TIP features fighters on the frontline in the Jabal al Akrad area of Latakia province. Jabal al Akrad has seen heavy fighting in recent days as jihadist forces, including the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and other rebel groups have fought the Assad regime for the town of Doureen. While the regime has claimed to have taken the town, Al Nusrah released footage yesterday showing fighting still occurring there. Ahrar al Sham, a powerful al Qaeda-ally, and the Free Syrian Army’s First Coastal Division have also released footage from in and near the town. In addition, Al Nusrah published a video showing Russian airstrikes in the area.

The TIP has fought alongside al Qaeda and its other allies in almost all of the major operations that have taken place in Idlib province this year. The jihadist group assisted in the capture of the city of Jisr al Shughur, where it launched at least two suicide bombings in support of the operation. It also helped overrun several important towns and villages in the strategic Al Ghab plain with Al Nusrah, Jund al Aqsa, and two Uzbek groups, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, an al Qaeda affiliate, and the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, which has pledged allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mansour of the Taliban. The group also helped al Nusrah overrun the Abu Duhour airbase last month.

[For more information on the TIP’s role in these offensives, see LWJ report, Turkistan Islamic Party had significant role in recent Idlib offensive, and Threat Matrix reports, Turkistan Islamic Party releases photos from captured Syrian regime airbaseTurkistan Islamic Party in Syria involved in new Idlib offensiveTurkistan Islamic Party in Syria conducted suicide bombings at Jisr al Shughur, and Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria takes part in battle for the Al Ghab plain.]

Photos released by the Turkistan Islamic Party from the Al Ghab plain in Hama:

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Photos from Jabal al Akrad, Latakia: 

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

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5 Comments

  • mike merlo says:

    it won’t be long before these same forces or whats left of them are down to totin around just small arms/light weapons with nowhere to run but runnin around anyways. I’m guessin the Russians will also try & find a way to arm ISIS/ISIL/IS with a MANPAD or 2 or 3 to make life potentially miserable for those US Forces air droppin supply’s to Assads ‘immediate’ opponents

    • James says:

      @Mike

      Mike, with all due respects for your comments, it doesn’t look like this thing is going to well for team Putin/a$$ad. They are already having to send in reinforcements (starting with the mullah regime [in Tehran]).

      You know Mike, if Putin really wants to win respect from other nations, the best thing he could do in this conflict is to encourage (or force, if need be) a$$ad to go. Why should the Russians have to fight a$$ad’s war? If I were a Russian, I’d be asking the question: “What are we doing in Syria fighting a$$ad’s war?” You see Mike, he’s just not worth it (a$$ad, that is).

      I just wish that the Syrian army (as well as the Russians) would just wake up. After all, it’s not the Syrian war, it’s a$$ad’s war more than anything else.

      • mike merlo says:

        @ James

        wait till 2016 before bandying about comments as to whether or not this ‘foray’ by Putin/Russia & Iran is going well or not. They’ve only been at this present Offensive for around 2 weeks. The so-called “reinforcements” you speak of are part of the overall plan & by the way these aren’t the “reinforcements” these Iranian Military Personnel are part of the ‘Initial Assault Force.” This Offensive has been in planning for months.

        “Respect?” Welcome to realpolitik. This is respect in its purest & rawest form. This is SuperPower GeoPolitics. This isn’t some PlaySkool buddy buddy diplomatic nonsense played out by the likes of Liechtenstein, Uruguay & Cambodia. Rest assured not only have Putin & Russia gotten the World’s attention he’s got their respect. This isn’t about Assad. That time came & went a few years ago. Besides what Nations could you possibly be referring to? The USA & its Coalition of Cockadoodledoo’s? That’s mostly just a collection of freeloaders & bureaucrat’s trying to out do each other with the latest ‘sound bite. It’s a joke & a craven one at that. Obsessing on Assad is the equivalent of complaining about ytivarg. There is something much much bigger afoot here than some sleaze bag dictator who has no qualms about murdering/torturing his own people. This is part of a much larger vision of Russia & Communist China maneuvering themselves into position to dominant the Indian Ocean along with their continuing pursuit to dominant the Asian part of the Eurasian Landmass. Interestingly enough General McMaster actually touched upon this very subject just recently while not specifically singling out the Indian Ocean.

  • HullDown says:

    That Russian maneuver to supplant the US is over except for the dust settling. Regardless of the speed or even outcome of the Syrian part of this war, Russia’s strategic aim to become the power broker has succeeded. The US (our CinC, not mine) strategy of leading from behind had now borne it’s fruit all across the Middle East. Wit respect to the US apologizing, my guess is that many Middle Eastern leaders long for the days of B43 ca 2008. He was WYSIWYG and understood realpolitik. Regarding the Iranians in Syria, they are also heavily involved in Iraq, cannot significantly weaken Hezbo because of the Israelis (I wouldn’t be surprised if the current security sitch in Israel is a spoiling attack) and need to maintain a large force in Iran due to internal stability issues so they have some major constraints. Our leverage with the Iraqis is with the Kurds. The Iraqis would quickly lose that SE grin if we dramatically intervened with the Kurds and stopped this stupid charade of sending aid through Baghdad for “sovereignty reasons”. We could shore up our position by trying to fix our relationship with the Egyptians and stabilize NE Africa/the Med. We’d get support from Europe because it would ease the refugee problem. We need to support the French in W Africa and the African Union in the Horn. To resolve Afghanistan, I would talk to the Indians and Pakis. Unlike the Vietcong/NVA/North Vietnamese relationship with China, the Taliban/Pakis have a long border with a regional adversary. We need to be using that and ought to realign our GCC boundary at least temporarily so that CENTCOM can deal with the Indians.

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