Al Nusrah Front on the offensive in Aleppo


Banner for the Al Nusrah Front, a jihadist group in Syria. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, launched two assaults on Syrian bases in Aleppo today. Al Nusrah is leading the assault against a strategic base in Wadi Deif, and is participating in another attack on the main airport in Aleppo with other “rebels.” AFP reports:

Syrian rebels attacked a key army base in the northwest province of Idlib on Friday, the last regime bastion in the region, and regime warplanes launched air raids in Damascus province, a watchdog said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several rebel groups pounded Wadi Deif amid violent clashes on the ground while regime warplanes launched air strikes around the army base. Two rebel fighters were killed, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Rebels on the ground said the jihadist group the Al Nusrah Front was leading the offensive.

Syria’s rebels have long aimed to take the base “no matter what losses they incur because of its strategic importance,” the Observatory said in a statement.

It added that regime troops were deployed to protect the base, whose loss would cut the main supply route for reinforcements from Damascus to Syria’s second city in the north, Aleppo.

Insurgents took a key base in October in the town of Maaret al-Numan, close to Wadi Deif, and right on the Damascus-Aleppo highway. Army reprisals to retake the town failed.

Elsewhere, Al Nusrah and rebel fighters attacked regime troops guarding Aleppo airport, the Observatory reported, as clashes shook several neighbourhoods in the city, including around a military compound besieged by rebels.

The Al Nusrah Front, which was virtually nonexistent one year ago (the group didn’t announce its formation until January 2012) is now one of the premier fighting forces in Syria. The group is capable of sustaining multiple offensives across Syria against the forces of the Assad regime, and has overrun several military bases (Al Nusrah and allied jihadist groups laid siege to the Sheikh Suleiman base, or Base 111, in western Aleppo for more than two months before overrunning it). In addition, the group has skillfully employed suicide bombers and assault teams in the heart of Syria’s major cities. Al Nusrah has claimed credit for 43 suicide attacks so far this year. And, as the reaction to the US terrorism designation has shown, Al Nusrah is quite popular among the Syrian opposition.

Those still arguing that al Qaeda is dead, as Peter Bergen and Thomas Lynch did in a debate against Thomas Joscelyn and me in October, should look no further than the Al Nusrah Front in Syria in order to reevaluate their assessment.

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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  • mike merlo says:

    ‘its’ become quite obvious that the Islamic Internationale has now developed a ‘respectable’ number of coterie’s both skilled & able in the use war fighting material & application of tactic’s necessary for the engagements spread throughout Muslim communities. It is also apparent that a logistical base has been developed & organized flexible enough to satisfy & meet the demands required for such a widely dispersed undertaking. It is also obvious that a next tier down of Muslim mercenaries composing the “rank & file” are also available for deployment to dispersed locations to either supplement, augment, spearhead, or serve as a type of “Einsatzgruppen,” evangelize, gather local information/intelligence, scout targets, etc., in these “Limited Warfare” scenarios. Very, very serious to say the least. If events continue along their present trajectory, which by my calculation(s) ‘they’ will, we can expect to see coterminous theater of conflict as large as Europe & as easily as large as the Continental US if not larger if the Rad Sea is ‘factored’in’ as well it should.

  • Gaz says:

    The foreign Jihadi volunteers are gaining valuable networking opportunities and training and combat experience in (especially) Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mali, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
    There are going to be a very large number of experienced Jihadis floating around, particularly after Bashar’s downfall and the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    I suspect from late 2013 onwards there are going to be interesting times.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Agreed. This is the result of power vacuums. The West has essentially lost all political will to influence this theater. There will be blow back. Just light the fuse, start instigating/supporting the Kurds and Azeri’s for their respective nation states, discretely of course .

  • larry says:

    Was not the rationale behind the Iraq war to create a base of operations in the heart of the middle-east. Instead it looks like we helped create one for AQ

    The Al Nasura Front is basically AQI moved west which never would have existed in this capacity if not for…I’m just beating a dead horse here.

    Assuming Assad goes, it will be interesting to see where Zawahiri deploys these guys next. That kind of reminds me of another funny thing that Peter Bergen and Lynch said; Zawahiri is irrelevant and AQ rank and file won’t follow his orders. Oh really now?

  • Thaffar maaitah says:

    “The foreign Jihadi volunteers are gaining valuable networking opportunities and training and combat experience” …… Two decades ago .. The world suffered from the Arab afghans ( left overs of jihadists after Afghanistan war)… In the near future we will have Arab Syria fighters going back to thier countries .. Keeping in mind that hundreds of fighters will return to England, europ and USA… That might lead to another British July or American sept, or may be Jordanian Nov … Time will tell ….

  • kafantaris says:

    The Iranian regime is having a hard time seeing a world without Assad. The Syrian people themselves are having no such difficulty, and their view is becoming clearer and clearer every day with each bomb that falls.
    Iran, therefore, should take a lesson from Syria as the drama unfolding there is but a preview of what is coming to Iran.
    Nor will the regime’s usual scapegoating of Israel do anymore; the Information Age has made this little handy technique obsolete. Moreover, the internet is now impervious to full censorship.
    When the Iranian people have had enough and turn against the regime, the regime will turn on them, just like Assad has — preferring to destroy the country rather than yield power. Such is the way of tyrants, even the theocratic ones.
    And when their end comes, few of us will shed any tears — as few of us are now readying any tears for Assad.


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