Al Nusrah Front seizes Syrian base in joint operation with Free Syrian Army

The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that is fighting Bashir al Assad’s regime in Syria, has seized control of an airbase near Aleppo in a joint operation with the supposedly secular Free Syrian Army. Video of the fighters at the airbase has appeared on the Internet.

The Al Nusrah Front and Free Syrian Army captured the airbase in al Ta’aneh near Aleppo yesterday after heavy fighting with the Syrian military. Scud tactical ballistic missiles as well as anti-aircraft missiles were housed at the airbase.

“A few hundred fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, Fajr al-Islam and a few members of the FSA [Free Syrian Army] took part in the operation which lasted for more than five hours,” according to a statement attributed to “Abu Firas of the Revolutionary Council in Aleppo” that accompanied the video posted on a YouTube site.

“The airbase was completely destroyed. The fighters were able to control the whole base after a long fight in which many Syrian soldiers killed, some fled, and others were captured,” the statement continued. “The fighters have set up many checkpoints around the base and were able´╗┐ to confiscate 20 different rockets.”

The Al Nusrah Front is known to conduct joint operations with the Free Syrian Army, the main group in Syria that is held up as the secular opposition to the Assad regime. In August, Al Nusrah said it attacked a police station outside of Damascus along with the Al Sahaba Battalion, a unit of the Free Syrian Army that operates in the capital. According to The Guardian, jihadist groups such as Al Nusrah have become more appealing to Syrian rebels as they are better organized and have expertise from waging jihad in Iraq and elsewhere, and have integrated their operations with the Free Syrian Army.

Background on Al Nusrah Front activity in Syria

The Al Nusrah Front has conducted numerous suicide attacks and complex military operations against the Syrian military over the past 10 months. Additionally, Al Nusrah has claimed credit for hundreds of conventional attacks.

The group has now claimed credit for 27 of the 34 suicide bombings in Syria that the The Long War Journal has tallied since December 2011. Since the end of August, Al Nusrah has claimed credit for launching nine suicide attacks. For more information on the suicide attacks in Syria, see LWJ reports, Suicide bombings become commonplace in Syria , and Al Nusrah Front claims 5 suicide attacks in Syria in past month.

The al Qaeda-linked group has conducted several sophisticated attacks in Syria since it announced its presence earlier this year. Al Nusrah has claimed it executed the June 1 suicide assault on the Syrian military at a camp in Idlib, as well as a complex attack at the airport at Albu Kamal on Sept. 4.

The last complex suicide attack occurred on Oct. 9, when Al Nusrah forces attacked the Air Force Intelligence branch in Harasta on the outskirts of Damascus. Two suicide bombers struck the base within 25 minutes of each other, then Al Nusrah fighters launched a mortar attack as recovery operations were underway. The previous complex attack took place on Sept. 26, when an assault team detonated a suicide car bomb outside the Army headquarters in central Damascus and a five-man team then entered the headquarters and battled with security guards. Also, on Oct. 3, Al Nusrah launched two suicide attacks and two car bomb attacks against different military targets in Aleppo.

Besides the Al Nusrah Front, other al Qaeda-affiliated groups, such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, also operate in Syria. In addition, still other al Qaeda-style groups, such as the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade, which has claimed that it will use suicide attacks, and the Omar al Farouq Brigade, have appeared in Syria as well.

Foreign jihadists have begun to pour into Syria to wage jihad against Assad’s regime. Fighters from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories are known to have been killed in Syria.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Christian says:

    All the more reason why the West should have involved itself directly (and openly) on the behalf of the resistance early on. Our absence allowed a void to be created, and it is slowly being filled by Al-Qaeda.
    The Syrian people will not thank the West when the regime falls.

  • mike merlo says:

    now that the ‘rebel’ forces have control over missiles one can’t help but wonder who or what will be the recipient of this ‘newly’ acquired largess. And still the Golan Heights ‘remain silent.’ How long is that to last?

  • blert says:

    That’s a very substantial, dual use airport.
    If true, it’s a major defeat for the regime.
    Elsewhere, we’re hearing that Assad’s chemical munitions are so extensive that the USA would have to send upwards of 75,000 men to police them up. (!)
    This is also linked to the Jordanian Army — which, presumably, is to help out.
    Between Libya and Syria it appears that the salafist factions are being massively up armed by events.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    The battle for Aleppo has been a long and brutal one, but I think eventually the rebels will gain the upper hand and win. The worry is, though, that the fighters around Aleppo are hardcore, experienced Jihadists – and that they will punish the people of Aleppo for once supporting Bashar Al-Assad. All throughout this war almost all of the media’s focus has been on atrocities committed by Assad’s forces, and they rarely, if ever, focus on the rebels and the atrocities they have committed.
    Anyways, now that we have this imagery available to us, it’s time to send a few stealth bombers over-head and take out the entire base. I was always against intervention, but a single one-off strike would do the world a favour. Scud missiles, and long range missiles in the hands of Al Qaeda extremists is never, ever a good thing. They are probably drooling from the mouth right now, thinking about the damage and destruction they are able to inflict on their enemies now.
    I’m often amazed at how Bill can write about these kind of things without any (apparent) level of alarm or sense of worry. This is serious, troubling stuff. But of course, Bill also needs to maintain a sense of impartiality, so I understand.

  • Tunde says:

    What ? Involved with who exactly ? Syria is a mess. There is no good side. At the very least, Assad was a ‘known known’ in Rumsfeld parlance. What we have now is many ‘unknown knowns’. You’d rather jihadis controlling air defense bases (with their munitions-think about that) than Assad’s forces ? Hope you don’t fly over MENA anytime soon.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    After viewing this video and numerous others showing Syrian Government forces in action, I’m changing my mind on their effectiveness. Their equipment is in poor shape and their troops seem to be poorly trained. It’s only a matter of time before the regime will fall, the rebels have the initiative. AlQaeda Inc. will try to exploit this, to what level I don’t know. But the best outcome for the civilized world would be a coup detat, where large elements flip and remove the Assad regime and transfer power to the Sunnis. I’d be curious as to the Israeli’s strategy. Do they want Syria to collapse like Lebanon, or would they prefer some semblance of structure in a new regime, most likely hostile as well. I would take the Israeli counsel seriously on this one. They will have to deal with it in the future.

  • mark says:


  • Tony Buzan says:

    Bill described the “Free Syrian Army” as “supposedly secular”.
    Good work Bill!
    It’s time to call a spade a spade and stop al Qaeda dead in its tracks rather than funneling millions to it through our Saudi “allies”.

  • Render says:

    Getting the US into Syria early would probably not have prevented the radical groups from appearing. After all, quite a few of them were already there. Preventing the appearance of those groups on the battlefield would have required 100,000 troops, a significant amount of heavy armor, and virtually unlimited tactical air support.
    All of that may be required yet…
    The Russians and Iranians would have, and likely will go, apoplectic in response. With all that that entails…
    IN THE

  • tony bob says:

    isreal sucks. why does everyone think salafs are a danger to the west? they just dont want non muslim troops in the ummah. simple.
    ps mark, it is isreal that is gong to be leveled if they dont change their evil ways

  • Shane E says:

    You are kidding about salafists only wanting non muslim troops off there land, right???


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