The Jaysh al Fateh coalition, which is led by jihadist groups, claims to have overrun several towns and villages in the southern part of Syria’s Aleppo province in the past 24 hours. Leading factions in Jaysh al Fateh, including Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham, have posted a series of videos and images on social media from the areas they say have fallen.
The alliance launched the counteroffensive in the past few days in an attempt to thwart the advances of Bashar al Assad’s regime and its allies, including Russia, which has been bombing targets in Aleppo as part of its air campaign.
The Sunni jihadists from Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham have been battling their Shiite counterparts from various militias, which are backed by Iran and Assad. As part of Jaysh al Fateh’s propaganda campaign surrounding the ongoing battles, its constituent groups have published pictures of identification cards, money and other spoils purportedly captured from the Shiite militias, Iranian forces, and members of Assad’s regime.
In a series of tweets from its so-called correspondents’ network, Al Nusrah Front, which is an official branch of al Qaeda, says that its fighters have advanced on Al Aziziyah, Tall Mamu, and several other villages. One video published by Al Nusrah shows “mujahideen” tanks approaching the villages. Two other videos show Al Nusrah’s jihadists shelling Tall Mamu, attacking it with armored vehicles and then the village after its “liberation.”
Separately, Ahrar al Sham has published its own propaganda from the fighting. A map, seen above, illustrates the areas Jaysh al Fateh’s forces are storming in the southern part of the Aleppo province.
All of the photos and videos are watermarked with both the logos of the individual group and Jaysh al Fateh. The counteroffensive is the latest evidence that Jaysh al Fateh has survived the disputes that broke out between a few of its member groups. In particular, Jund al Aqsa, another al Qaeda-linked group, broke away from the alliance in recent weeks after it objected to some of Ahrar al Sham’s practices. Jund al Aqsa claimed that Ahrar al Sham was way too cordial with the West and regional nations, and was pressuring the jihadists to fight the Islamic State. Although Jund al Aqsa rejects Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s “caliphate” and remains loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, the group believes that sharia law prohibits any attacks on its jihadist cousins in the Islamic State. It is not clear what role, if any, Jund al Aqsa is playing the Aleppo fighting.
Jaysh al Fateh’s reunification was reportedly brokered by Sheikh Abdullah Mohammed al Muhaysini, a popular Saudi cleric who is, at a minimum, pro-al Qaeda.
A number of other organizations are participating in Jaysh al Fateh’s counteroffensive, including the Sham Legion, which is itself a coalition of Islamist groups in the area.
Screen shots from Al Nusrah Front’s videos of the fighting in the southern part of the Aleppo province. One video shows Al Nusrah’s tanks approaching Al Aziziyah and Tall Mamu. The video is shot from the perspective of the vehicle:
Another video shows Tall Mamu after its “liberation” from “Iranian forces” and Shiite militias:
Al Nusrah claims these identification cards and other belongings were seized from members of Iraqi Shiite militias and others in the Assad-Iran axis who fled the fighting. Only some of the images posted by Al Nusrah are included here:
Ahrar al Sham’s photos from the fighting in the southern part of Aleppo province:
Members of the Sham Legion pose with a truck captured during the fighting in Aleppo. The flag on the hood of the truck appears to be the one used by Hezbollah: