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, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Syria, has claimed credit for numerous attacks, including four suicide bombings, against Syrian security forces, government officials, and a government-backed militia.
The Al Nusrah Front claimed credit for the attacks in 12 statements that were released by the Al Manara al Baydha’ Foundation for Media Production on jihadist web forums on June 30. The statements were translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The “soldiers of the Front” conducted scores of attacks throughout Syria, including in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Dier al Zor, and Idlib. The targets have included members of the government, police, military, intelligence, and the “shabiha” or the ghosts, President Bashir al Assad’s plain-clothed militia who have massacred thousands of Syrian civilians in brutal attacks. Also targeted were pro-government tribal leaders. The attacks consisted of suicide bombings, ambushes, assassinations, car bombings, and IED attacks.
The first suicide attack took place on June 7 in the Al Maysar neighborhood in Aleppo. Al Nusrah said the “martyrdom-seeking operation” struck a bus carrying “elements of the state security of the tyrannical oppressive regime who are called the ‘Brigade of Preserving Order.'” The suicide bomber detonated his vest on the bus, and “caused large damage in the soldiers of the tyrants.” Al Nusrah claimed that a “Captain from the Al-Sha’aar police section” was among those killed.
“We hope this operation will be followed by larger and more powerful and more effective operations,” Al Nusrah said.
In another suicide attack, which was not dated, a suicide bomber identified as Abu Nawras al-Janubi detonated his car bomb against the “Hirak barrier in Daraa.” Al Nusrah did not provide details of the result of the operation, but promised more suicide attacks.
“The battle has intensified and there will be tens of the like of the hero Abu Nawras until Darra of heroism is liberated from the Nusayri enemy,” the statement said, referring to the Shia sect that makes up much of Syria’s leadership.
In the third suicide attack, which also was not dated, Al Nusrah said that a suicide bomber named Al Laith al Furati detonated a car packed with explosives into a military security headquarters in Al Salihiyah, near Deir al Zor.
“So, he took a car full of explosives, went through the barriers, reached the headquarters and blew up the building, leaving it to collapse and filling the hearts of the dogs of this regime and its elements with horror of the moment that hides for each of them to make them taste from the cup of their demise,” the statement said.
In the last suicide attack claimed by Al Nusrah, which took place on June 14, the terror group said Abu Mu’awiyya al Dimishqi drove a van laden with explosives into “a state security branch in the neighborhood of al-Sayyida Zaynab in the countryside of Damascus.” Al Nusrah claimed that “many” security personnel were killed.
Additionally, Al Nusrah claimed credit for the June 7 assault on the Al Ikhbariya television station in Damascus that killed seven people. The terror group accused the TV channel of being an arm of the government.
“This media is part of the murderous soldiers of the regime and the shabiha [thugs]. The Syrian al-Ikhbariya channel is one of the striking arms of the regime, for it lied and fabricated often, and in criminality it was creative,” Al Nusrah said.
President Bashir al Assad’s regime has been battling the Free Syrian 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 17,000 Syrians, indiscriminately shelling civilian areas and using armored vehicles and snipers to fire on civilians. Additionally, the “ghosts” have been waging a violent campaign against civilians, including massacres in small towns throughout Syria.
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.
Since announcing its formation, Al Nusrah has claimed credit for at least nine suicide attacks, and scores of attacks on Syrian security forces and government officials.
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.
Earlier this year, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri 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.