Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group trains in Syria

Flag of Ansar Jihad

Ansar Jihad, an al Qaeda-linked group comprised of Central Asian and Turkish fighters, has released a video touting another training camp in northern Syria. Unlike other training camp videos from the group, this makeshift setup focuses on small arms training, explosives, and small unit combat.

Most of the video is dedicated to showing the jihadist group training in small arms fire near abandoned buildings somewhere in northwestern Syria. Kalashnikov assault rifles and PK machine guns are shown, along with the use of explosives and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). The video ends with the jihadists partaking in physical training. Prior training videos have focused on snipers and close quarters combat.

Ansar Jihad is an al Qaeda-linked group that has fought alongside that organization’s main branch in Syria in many battles. It has advertised its role in the fighting in Aleppo, including in the Oct. 2016 al Qaeda-led offensive named the “Battle of Abu Omar Saraqib.” A Uighur military commander of the group was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year alongside a longtime al Qaeda veteran known as Abu Khattab al Qahtani.

The group’s commander, Abu Omar al Turkistani, reportedly played a leading role in the creation of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a merger between Jabhat Fatah al Sham (JFS, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria) and several other rebel groups. Turkistani may have been in line to assume a position in the newly formed entity. As such, it remains possible that Ansar Jihad is a subsidiary of JFS/HTS.

Ansar Jihad also has ties to the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in Afghanistan. Turkistani was a former commander in the IJU from around 2011 to 2015 when he migrated to Syria to join the jihad there. On Ansar Jihad’s Telegram page, it has also eulogized killed IJU fighters and has shared its videos. However, it is unclear if Ansar Jihad contains any other former IJU members. (See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Uighur jihadist fought in Afghanistan, killed in Syria.)

Screenshots from the video:

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

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2 Comments

  • khalid ibn walid umer ibn al khattab says:

    i only read half of the first sentence of this article and then i stopped reading it. al qaeda is such a silly, stupid, childish, organisation. how many “al qaeda linked” groups are there in syria? al qaeda should only have ONE al qaeda linked group in syria. the “mujahideen” in syria are soo divided its unbelievable. the “jihad” in syria is turning out to be a big, unfortunate, sad, joke. i am afraid that all these so-called mujahideen in syria are khawarij and i am afraid that even HTS might be like that. i am afraid that the killed fighters and the killers from all sides of this conflict will go to hell and will be the dogs of hell. al qaeda has lost the plot. ayman al zawahiri should fear allah and should contemplate over the consequences of his actions and his incompetency. if he is not up to the job then he should resign and he should call for a shura to choose someone else to become the ameer of al qaeda instead; most preferably abu mohammad al julani.

    the first caliph of islam, abu bakr (ra), said to the muslims and to his council that if he makes a mistake or does something that goes against islam, then he should be immediately correct without fear.

  • jack says:

    so if you know where it is drone the hell out of it!

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