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Al Nusrah Front detonates 50 IEDs in massive ambush




The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, released video today that shows numerous IED, or roadside bomb, attacks against Syrian military personnel. The group claims that in one attack, it "simultaneously detonated 50 explosive devices on a Syrian military convoy in the Eastern Ghotah area of Damascus," according to a summary of the video by the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated the video. The attack reportedly took place on Dec. 6, 2012.

The video above, from SITE, shows the attack in question. It is difficult to determine how many bombs were detonated. I was able to count 35 distinct plumes of smoke. At 0:36, you can see a car explode (the video is filmed from a distance). The Al Nusrah Front cameraman also filmed the aftermath of the attack; about 10 vehicles were destroyed or so badly damaged that they were left behind.

I've been following the war in the Iraqi and Afghan theaters for years, and cannot recall such a spectacular IED event. I've heard reports of upwards of 20 IEDs daisy-chained together and detonated, but the attack in the video is by far the biggest that I am aware of.

This attack says quite a bit about the resources and capabilities of the Al Nusrah Front. Without a doubt, Syria has become one of the primary theaters in al Qaeda's global jihad.



READER COMMENTS: "Al Nusrah Front detonates 50 IEDs in massive ambush "

Posted by Nicola at February 18, 2013 7:47 PM ET:

I am surprised too. I always thought of al nusrah as a small group of terrorists who managed to escape death in iraq and are now carrying on their activites in Syria. They must have gathered some sympathy from some rich men. I'm also surprised to have come across a jihadi video and not hearing shouting of 'Alllahu Akbar' even once, though there was a guy in the video waving his finger but thanks to the music we couldn't hear him.

Posted by mike merlo at February 18, 2013 8:32 PM ET:

Whoa, very, very impressive

Posted by Ken North at February 18, 2013 9:28 PM ET:

And, meanwhile, the Al Nusrah Brigades, AQI in reality, are actively engaging Hezbollah units along the Lebanese border. Interesting events when you remember that it was the late Imad Mugniyah, architect of the 1983 Beirut bombings against American and French bases, who introduced Bin Laden to the nuances of complex attacks.

This is truly an ominous development, because both Hizbollah and AQ will simply get even better at what they already do extremely well, as Bill's report here persuasively illustrates. When ultralites routinely transport 300 pound loads across the Mexican border at will, who can reasonably maintain that this could not happen in the U.S.?

It is particularly telling that Al Nusrah's recent complex attacks against Syrian bases are an order of magnitude more elegant that Mumbai or any other previous assaults. They have uniquely developed the "tiered assault" tactic to readily deconstruct a layered defense.

Posted by Prize of Carnage at February 18, 2013 10:57 PM ET:

The situation in Syria, where al-Qaeda linked jihadist are able to move freely, train, plan and strike, is a dream come true for nearby groups like al Qaeda in Iraq.

The aims of these jihadi groups is to strike at apostate Arab regimes, and the Syrian civil war is a perfect chance to do so. The problem is, with every strike, these jihadi groups grow more and more bold.

Sometimes I wonder whether the war in Iraq was less brutal than the current jihadi operation in Syria.

Posted by KaneKaizer at February 19, 2013 1:14 AM ET:

Wow. I haven't ever seen anything quite like that. They weren't individually very big, but that's one way to take out a convoy I suppose.

Posted by blert at February 19, 2013 9:26 AM ET:

KaneKaiser:

Only in Hollywood films do high explosives generate a lot of flash. (It's Primacord.)

The heavy smoke seen indicates that these IEDs used plenty of ANFO 'booster.' That style was pervasive in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.

ANFO= Ammonium Nitrate (as in farm fertilizer) + Fuel Oil (as in farm tractor Diesel fuel)

It took plenty of power to toss engine blocks clean out of the chassis.

Other than the tank (T55?) -- everything, everyone, was devastated.

That's the rub: the Syrian Army is dying the death of a thousand (logistical) cuts.

Assad is already pulling back towards Damascus -- for his 'final stand.'

It's reasonable to expect the anti-Assad elements to 'stand up' a new government shortly after Aleppo surrenders. That's only a matter of time -- now that it's cut off.

Posted by gb at February 19, 2013 9:51 AM ET:

Well, they sure were effective against the soft skin civilian vehicles and a jeep of some sort, but the heavier armored vehicles were left unscathed. This event speaks to three major points, one that they were able to gather intel on the convoy route, and two that they had sufficient time to plant and set the charges, and three that they had the technical ability to pull it off. These rebels are gaining valuable experience as this conflict drags on.

Posted by Bob at February 19, 2013 10:37 AM ET:

What are the odds a foreign EOD-esque former uniformed soldier was involved in this ambush? My guess, pretty high. Then again, how many terrorists come from engineering backgrounds...


Either way, the architect of this set up is a highly wanted man, both by the Syrian Army, and by the other rebels for further training.

Posted by Setrak at February 19, 2013 11:22 AM ET:

ANF has been very effective against Assad's forced. They reportedly hit another big convoy near Safira outside of Aleppo just the other day. They also seem to be at the gates of Aleppo Int airport. The fall of Assad seems to be accelerating rapidly.

Posted by Birbal Dhar at February 19, 2013 11:39 AM ET:

This clearly shows that the west including Turkey and Arab countries are funding terrorist groups like the Free Syrian Army, who then share resources with an Al Qaeda group like Al Nusrah. Folks don't be surprised by the resources and attacks of Al Nusrah, when you have countries financially supporting them indirectly.

Posted by blert at February 19, 2013 6:41 PM ET:

Birbal Dhar...

Everything in the media suggests that the West is sitting on its hands.

1) Turkey is not willing to send hardware into Syria -- since such things end up in Kurdish hands -- and radical Kurds, at that.

2) NATO is simply not willing to go against the wishes of Russia vis a vis her ages old client state on the Med. That impulse is far, far, more powerful than any intra-Arab political dynamic.

3) The dominant anti-Assad faction is owned and operated by a wing of al Queda. You're dreaming to think that stench does not utterly repel Western aid. It's a pretty good bet that 0bama, himself, was put off by that. No Western politician can suffer to have any link between AQ and himself. It's a career ender.

4) Qatar and KSA both support the anti-Assad elements -- but KSA is also totally opposed to AQ -- whose number one goal is to liquidate the Saudi royal house.

5) Most of the hand-wringing we see in the media comes from know-nothings -- journalists. As a group, they don't mix with military officers -- and are, hence, clueless about any of the military arts.

6) Assad has recently pulled out of the Golan and the east. He is now shunting his best formations towards holding on to Aleppo and Damascus.

7) His die-hard support comes from Iranian Shi'ite fanatics. Translation: he can't even depend on his own crew.

8) The Russians are flying in bandages and flying out women and children.

That's the true state of play.

Posted by JimBoMo at February 20, 2013 12:54 AM ET:

@Blert Speaking of a thousand logistical cuts, I noticed the 55 gal drums from one of the wrecked pickups - in addition to the fuel browser.

Posted by Lance Cordill at February 20, 2013 12:45 PM ET:

Wow, these guys are dangerous against sub-compact cars and mini-pick up trucks. Their video editing I above average for their production genre. Plus, this alleged attack took place over ten-weeks ago? Not buying it.

Posted by solidpoint at February 20, 2013 3:07 PM ET:

Effective against light vehicles only. No follow-on attack at all. The cowards apparently detonated their IEDs, and then capitalized on their enemy's disorientation by not firing a single shot. Nothing in the audio, and no bullet holes in the wreckage.

Assad's fortunate he's fighting an enemy that is more interested in self-preservation than victory. Nice propaganda video - for the ignorant AQ recruits.

Posted by Bungo at February 20, 2013 5:33 PM ET:

I don't think rigging multiple explosives is technically difficult. If you can wire 3 lightbulbs to operate on one circuit then you can do this. It's simply having the time to do it without being shot.

I can also see how the indiginous revolutionaries would allow the AQs to partake in the fight. The more the merrier I guess. They certainly could use the help and would probably accept help from anyone. When the dust settles and the jackals are picking on Assads corpse I think there's a very good possibility that the Syrians will show the AQs the door and thank them for their help. They may kick and scream for a bit but AQ doesn't have the power to hi-jack an entire revolution like this one by itself.

Posted by Colin at February 20, 2013 7:19 PM ET:

Likely training from Iranian backed groups. The "Jeep" was an armoured Landrover. I suspect the Syrian army was using the route frequently judging by the tracks and the IED must have been planted earlier before the rain. Clearly they are not watching supply routes, lying that many IED would take time.

Posted by shag nasty at February 20, 2013 9:23 PM ET:

looks like somebody needs a route clearance package.....or shall I say needed..

Posted by Leroy marnolejo at February 20, 2013 10:17 PM ET:

Some gov was in on this one!!!

Posted by solidpoint at February 21, 2013 4:30 AM ET:

Anyone that thinks this is a sophisticated attack isn't paying attention.

The reason none of the heavy armor was taken out is because the IEDs didn't have multiple large charges detonated by dedicated observers waiting to trigger their explosive when a heavy was right where it needed to be. Also the reason there was no follow-on engagement. This was 30 minutes of pressing explosives into muddy ground and a couple of guys with 1 and only 1 trigger attacking an area, not individual targets. Pretty amateur hour.

We tried to bring 2 countries into a Democratic state of governance, and failed because there were too many devoted to promoting chaos. The West is sitting on their hands this time in the hopes that all the crazy fanatics will kill each other off, and after they've bled themselves white the moderates will be able to stand up to them and create an orderly democratic government.

Posted by BEB at February 21, 2013 6:46 AM ET:

Has anybody considered the possibility that this was staged? I ask because I find it odd that there are no bodies in the wreckage.

I'm not familiar with the technical details of these explosives but it seems like there would be some remnants of bodies somewhere.

Just a question.

Posted by travis bascom at February 21, 2013 11:54 AM ET:

I found the no bodies odd too but then realized that after the explosion the convoy was in no danger of being attacked so they had time to take their bodies with them.

It probably isn't wise to follow up the explosion with an attack if you have a small group and don't have the means to take out the tanks.

Better to live again and continue doing damage to the enemy.

Posted by Mr T at February 21, 2013 5:45 PM ET:

Assad let many terrorists from around the world come to Syria on commercial airlines to go to training camps and then cross into Iraq to kill Americans. They had camps set up right across the border from Iraq. They could not have operated without the approval of the Syrian government. Now those same murder for hire jihadists are turning on Assad.

You reap what you sow. It must have been funny to Assad to see the chaos and carnage in Iraq and know he were part of helping it happen. Now the jokes on him and it isn't so funny.

The world has not stepped up and taken on these murderous criminals. It is considered some glorious endeavor instead of the immoral, illegal, terrible act that it really is. These guys should be condemned but they are considered heroes in their home communities. When will this madness stop? They are not heroes. They are murderers spreading pure evil.

Posted by blert at February 22, 2013 7:18 AM ET:

"Wow, these guys are dangerous against sub-compact cars and mini-pick up trucks."

E X A C T L Y.

Armies of rebellion NEVER can take on conventional forces -- straight up.

As Greene showed centuries ago, rebels must bob and weave. Some of Greene's tactics were portrayed by Mel Gibson in "Patriot."

(His character is a Colonel, modeled after Francis Marion, under Major General Greene's command, to whit: the South. The film is more fiction than fact, but it at least gets the fight for supplies correct.)

Here and there, you'll read of how Assad's army is able to advance at will through to their objective. That's exactly how it went for the British in the 18th century.

What neither force can do is send supplies or minor forces ('details') through the countryside. With every attempt, they get jumped.

Tarleton's (of film lore) tactic of baiting the rebels -- whence to pounce -- has made an impression. That's the reason why the rebels don't want to break cover after a command-detonated IED array.

Look past all of the tank fighting videos up loaded to the Web. Instead ask: how in the world can Assad fuel and maintain those monsters on an empty budget -- with the factories overseas?

When the Soviets left Afghanistan decades ago, they left tanks by the hundreds. They were working, too. Nothing lasted. They still litter the Afghan countryside.

The tank in the video looks like a T-55. If so, it's an antique. Even T-62s are forty to fifty years old. They break down (according to ex-drivers) every 50 kilometers. That makes any road march with Soviet era tanks quite a project.

(Soviet tank designs were and are notorious for weak transmissions. Their original, original, Diesel engine was designed for a French (1930s) dirigible. (Hard to believe, but true.) (As you might guess, Stalin didn't buy blueprints for the French transmission -- since dirigible engines don't have any. It was always the weak point of the T34,T43,T55,T62.)

Yes, it's true. The basic transmission scarcely changed in all that time. ( The same s l o w changes in transmission occur in ordinary cars, too. GM's turbohydramatic tranny from 1968 stayed in production into the 90's.)

One should expect the rebels to focus on all of Assad's repair shops -- and fuel trucks. Without them, his tank army grinds to a halt.

And his dictatorship depends upon them. Ultimately, tank divisions can't put down rebellions: they're too consumptive.

Posted by solidpoint at February 22, 2013 5:33 PM ET:

Mr T answers his own question. It will stop when the jihadist proxies, so gleefully sponsored by rich oil sheiks to relieve them of their boredom, come home to haunt them, and leaves behind a country reduced to rubble. This is EXACTLY what has happened with Syria, where the oil money came from Iran, instead of Saudi, as in Afghanistan.

Most of the Arab Spring countries are due to suffer the same fate as Syria. Only time will tell if they manage to avert the fate they so richly deserve. It may well be that instead, Syria will become the white-hot firestorm that sucks all of the hot-headed crazies out of their home countries where they will fight each other to the death. Democracy would then have a much better chance for success.

This endless game for dominance has always been attendant with Islam. The case of the Moors in Spain is a case study in this behavior. Of interest, the Crusades weren't originally an invasion of Islam by Christians, they were mercenaries gleaned from N Europe by rich and powerful Moors in Spain, who had exhausted the supply of local cannon fodder. This behavior appears to be an inherent flaw in Islam, and is one that will have to be fixed by moderates, or Islam will literally kill itself off.

Posted by Satto at February 25, 2013 10:42 AM ET:

Sure, the attack demonstrates the resourcefulness of Al Nusrah. The detonation and flash look very timed just as from a Hollywood or 3D film. Al Nusrah is a small group, so this looks so incredible!