In a new audio message, Ayman al Zawahiri warns jihadists that they should avoid a strictly “nationalist” agenda in Syria. He also says the jihadists should focus on waging a “guerrilla” war inside Syria and not place too much emphasis on controlling territory at this time. Zawahiri’s words are likely intended to influence some of the debates occurring within jihadist circles.
The State Department announced yesterday that two Canadian citizens have been added to the US government’s list designated terrorists. Tarek Sakr has been “linked” to al Qaeda’s “affiliate” in Syria and Farah Mohamed Shirdon is a member of the Islamic State. According to press reports, jihadists associated with Sakr are suspected of playing a role in the kidnappings of two Americans in Syria.
The policy debate concerning Syria must reflect on-the-ground realities. The war is a complex, multi-sided affair with no easy solutions.
The US Treasury Department designated Muhammad Hadi al-‘Anizi as an al Qaeda terrorist earlier this month. He was detained in Afghanistan in late 2001 at the age of 15. Al-‘Anizi was freed and thanked Kuwait’s leadership for his repatriation. He is now based in Kuwait.
Jihadists, Islamists and rebel groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a new offensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime in northern Hama province earlier this week. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, al Qaeda’s joint venture in Syria, is playing a prominent role in the fighting, dispatching several suicide bombers and its “special forces.” Upwards of 10 or more FSA-branded groups are participating as well.
Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), Ahrar al Sham, and the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Faylaq al Rahman launched a surprise offensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime in Damascus yesterday. HTS, an al Qaeda front group, has been stepping up its attacks in the Syrian capital in recent weeks.
Abu Jaber (also known as Hashem al Sheikh), the leader of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), has released a message commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Syrian revolution. He portrays HTS as a popular revolutionary force and calls on other rebel groups to join it for the sake of “unity.” He also promises to “escalate” operations against Bashar al Assad’s regime.
The US bombed what it says was a suspected al Qaeda “meeting location” in Syria. The airstrikes were immediately controversial, as Syrian activists and others said that the building hit was a mosque. The US has stepped up its air campaign in Syria since the beginning of the year by going after larger facilities suspected of being run by al Qaeda.