Banner for the Al Nusrah Front, a jihadist group in Syria. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, a jihadist group in Syria linked to al Qaeda, has claimed credit for a complex suicide attack and ambush that targeted the Syrian military at a camp in Idlib.
The terror group released a statement today claiming credit for the June 1 suicide attack that targeted the “the brutal Nusayri enemy,” a reference to Syria’s Alawites, the Shia sect that makes up much of Syria’s leadership. The Al Nusrah statement, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, said the suicide attack was designed to avenge the Houla massacre, in which 90 Syrians, including 32 children, were killed. In today’s statement, Al Nusrah also claimed credit for a host of other operations, including ambushes and IED attacks.
Al Nusrah described the suicide attack as a “special martyrdom-operation” and claimed it was carried out after conducting “reconnaissance of the camp site and studying it well.”
The Idlib suicide bomber, who was not named, detonated a “military ‘Zil’ vehicle” packed with explosives in the middle of the “al Nayrab Camp,” which the terror group described as “the largest military camp in Qati’ Idlib.”
Al Nusrah then claimed that the suicide attack was followed up with an ambush and IED attacks as Syrian troops moved to the camp to conduct rescue operations.
“[In] order to complete the work, the soldiers of the Al Nusrah Front ambushed the supply line that came to the camp to transport the wounded and help them, and then blew up by the grace of Allah seven explosive devices at the convoys that were sent to supply the blown up camp on Saraqib Road,” the statement said.
Al Nusrah described the unit that carried out the Idlib operation as the “brigade of al-Iz bin Abdul Salam.” This is likely a reference to Al-`Izz Ibn `Abdus-Salaam, a 13th century Islamic scholar from Syria who also fought in the Crusades, according to Islamweb.
The coordinated complex nature of the Idlib suicide attack and ambush indicates that seasoned jihadists with experience on the battlefields in the Middle East and South Asia are fighting with the Al Nusrah Front.
Al Nusrah has now claimed credit for five suicide attacks in Syria this year, as well as numerous other more conventional attacks, to include ambushes and IED strikes.
Al Nusrah has not claimed credit, however, for the May 10 double suicide attack in Damascus that killed 55 people. The terror group denied the authenticity of a video released in its name that claimed responsibility for the attack, but at the same time the group neither denied nor claimed it had carried out the attack.
President Bashir al Assad’s regime has been battling the Syrian Free Army in several of the country’s major cities. Assad’s security forces have ruthlessly attempted to suppress the rebellion. Over the past year, Syrian government forces have killed more than 14,000 Syrians, indiscriminately shelling civilian areas and using armored vehicles and snipers to fire on civilians.
The Syrian resistance has denied that jihadists are operating in its midst, and instead has maintained that the suicide bombings have been carried out by Syrian intelligence services as part of a false flag operation.
Background on the Al Nusrah Front
The Al Nusrah Front announced the formation of the “Free Ones of the Levant Brigades” in a YouTube video statement that was released on Jan. 23. In the statement, the group claimed an attack on security headquarters in Idlib.
“To all the free people of Syria, we announce the formation of the Free Ones of the Levant Brigades,” the statement said, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. “We promise Allah, and then we promise you, that we will be a firm shield and a striking hand to repel the attacks of this criminal Al Asad army with all the might we can muster. We promise to protect the lives of civilians and their possessions from security and the shabihah [pro-government] militia. We are a people who will either gain victory or die.”
Al Nusrah has identified its leader as Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Julani.
In addition to the Al Nusrah Front, a second jihadist group has recently been activated in Homs. In February, a group calling itself the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade said it had formed a martyrdom battalion and was prepared to carry out suicide attacks against Syrian forces. The video announcing the group’s activation showed members of the group posing in front of a flag belonging to al Qaeda in Iraq. Interestingly, a group known as the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade was created to wage jihad in Iraq in 2005, and merged with al Qaeda in Iraq under the command of Ayman al Zawahiri. The newly activated group in Homs also said it was part of the Free Syrian Army.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has recently urged Muslims inside and outside of Syria to take up arms against the Syrian government. In a statement issued on Feb. 11 and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Zawahiri said: “I appeal to every Muslim and every free, honorable one in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, to rise to help his brothers in Syria with all what he can, with his life, money, wonders, opinion, and information.” Telling Syrians not to trust Turkey, the Arab League, or the West, he exhorted the “lions of the Levant” to “[d]evelop the intention of jihad in the Cause of Allah to establish a state that defends the Muslim countries and seeks to liberate the Golan and continue its jihad until it raises the banners of victory above the usurped hills of Jerusalem.”
Al Qaeda in Iraq already has a strong presence in Syria [see LWJ report, Eastern Syria becoming a new al Qaeda haven]. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a regional al Qaeda affiliate, also is known to operate in Syria. Two of its senior leaders, Saudi citizens Saleh al Qarawi and Suleiman Hamad Al Hablain, have been added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists since November 2011. The terror group has denied any involvement in a Dec. 23, 2011 suicide attack in Syria.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.