2 Free Syrian Army brigades join Al Nusrah Front

Two brigades of the Free Syrian army that operate in Raqqah province have joined the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, one of two official al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.

The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade and the God’s Victory Brigade have pledged loyalty to the Al Nusrah Front over the past several days, Reuters reported.

The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade is said to have more than 750 fighters in its ranks. The size of the God’s Victory Brigade, which announced its merger with the Al Nusrah Front on Facebook, was not disclosed, but it is said to have “15 battalions.” Battalions often have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of fighters.

The two brigades were part of the Free Syrian Army as recently as Sept. 9. The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade and the God’s Victory Brigade, along with two other FSA brigades, formed the Raqqah Military Council over the summer, purportedly as part of an effort to counter al Qaeda’s influence in the province, Allvoices reported two weeks ago.

Before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al Qaeda’s other official affiliate in Syria, clashed with another unit belonging to the FSA’s Raqqah Military Council in July, the head of the council said that “[t]here is no conflict between the military council and any other armed group: Neither the Nusra Front nor the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham,” Allvoices reported.

After the clash, the Raqqah council mediated the dispute and hundreds of fighters from the FSA brigade abandoned the city. “The council itself was not party to the dispute, but it did communicate with both sides to help broker a cease-fire,” a spokesman said.

Syrian rebels and entire units are known to have defected to al Qaeda’s affiliates and allies. In May, a Free Syrian Army commander said that over 3,000 FSA fighters as well as whole units joined the Al Nusrah Front over the course of several months.

In March, a Chechen commander who leads more than 1,000 foreign fighters formed the Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar, or Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, and integrated several Syrian fighting units into the ranks. The Brigade of Khattab and the Army of Muhammad joined the Muhajireen Army.

The merger of two FSA units with al Qaeda comes as the US and European nations are seeking to step up the arming of Syrian rebels in the wake of a chemical attack outside Damascus that is said to have been carried by President Bashir al Assad’s forces. But as Islamist forces continue to grow and are now dominating the insurgency, the ability of the US to properly vet FSA units and prevent weapons from falling into the hands of al Qaeda and its allies becomes more difficult.

Just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that an FSA weapons and ammunition depot was raided by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Long-awaited shipments of US military aid to the rebels, including lethal weapons, began arriving in August. The Supreme Military Council , which has complained of the inadequacy of US support so far, claimed on Sept. 12 that it had not received any of the military aid. In July, an ISIL leader claimed that the FSA is selling it weapons.

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

Tags: , , ,


  • Joseph says:

    Even in an ideal situation where the Powers that be are able to manage a ceasefire in Syria – would that really cover the likes of al Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant?
    This war is going to continue, this war is going to intensify and spread and I fear we will see WMD being used again. By both sides.

  • Nimrod Pasha says:

    The Reuters report doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only did did Liwa’ Muntasir Billah and Liwa’ Thuwwar ar Raqqah give bay’ah to Jabhat an-Nusrah, but the SMC-aligned Liwa’ Nasr Salahuddin and and the smaller Katibat 313 gave bay’ah to ISIS, and Liwa’ Am’na ar-Raqqah pledged allegiance to Ahrar al-Sham. That’s the entirety of Liwa’ 11, the SMC-aligned coalition in Raqqah province. Essentially the entire SMC structure for the province has folded and merged with the jihadist groups, there’s no longer any FSA presence in Raqqah. This is probably the single largest defection of FSA groups ISIS/JaN since the start of the conflict.

  • Gaz says:

    The Raqqah Military Council and the FSA are dead in Raqqah now. Of the four factions that were active, 2 have joined jahbat al nusra, one joined ISIS and the last joined Ahrar al Sham.

  • . says:

    This should come as no surprise.

  • Knighthawk says:

    McCain and Lucy and the administration could not be immediately reached for comment. The foreseeable goat rodeo continues.

  • L Ledeboer says:

    18 months ago the rebels were overwhelmingly Syrian. Had the West had courage to supply arms then today might be different. Now a Civil/Sectarian war will grind on. The butcher’s bill will be much higher.

  • Tiberius says:

    Personally this fight should be left for the Syrians to fight alone. Yes there are foreign Islamists joining in the fight but does that mean the West especially the USA should join in the fight? Having read the article and some of the comments typed afterward, about arming the sectarian rebels early in the fight, the Islamists would not have a foothold on Syria. Mg question is what is it exactly you want? Do you want us to join a war we have no dealings with so later the US be accused of being “imperialist”? Sorry but the US has no bonein this fight a d let the Syrians handle it. WWhy ask the US for arms if the fellow Sunni Muslims in the area can more than provide the arms and money for obtaining supplies.

  • irebukeu says:

    Is is safe to say that John McCain’s Free Syrian Army has “jumped the shark”?

  • Knighthawk says:

    irebukeu – It was safe to say even prior to this event.

  • Celtiberian says:

    More BREAKING (worrying) NEWS.
    I think media is not informing yet but Twitter accounts of analysts, journalists and jihadists are all flashing up with the latest news from Syria:
    Today 13 major rebel groups, including Al-Nusrah (Al Qaeda) and the salafist Ahrar Al-Sham, but also including the most powerful brigades oficially adscribed to the West-suppported Syrian National Council (like Liwa Al Tawhid who numbers several thousands fighters) have issued a joint statement in which they depise the Syrian National Council and say that this western backed “government” does not represent rebel forces anymore and that SHARIA IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF LEGISLATION IN SYRIA

  • Celtiberian says:

    Sorry for posting again, but it seems that this is huge.
    As an example, see below some comments by Jenan Moussa, journalist sitting right now in the Turkey-Syrian frontier and who has been “embedded” many times with FSA rebels:
    – #Syria has entered a new phase just now. Majority of armed groups inside Syria dump SNC and ideology of democracy, say they want Sharia.
    – Better get used to this: Western backed Syrian National coalition is replaced by a group calling itself ‘Islamic coalition’.
    – Geneva 2 coming up &nearly all armed factions that matter in #Syria just issued statement saying political opposition doesn’t represent them

  • Celtiberian says:

    Interesting analysis by Joshua Landis on the ground breaking new rebel islamist alliance:
    As far as I know, only one media outlet has yet echoed this important development in Syria:
    I think most readers informed by the LongWarJournal were anticipating something like this (and worse things to come) but nonetheless I felt a shiver on my back when I saw this actually happening. US and Europe should realize as soon as possible that some kind of miltary intervention will be unavoidable in the near future, not against Assad but against the growing terror storm that is forming in Syria.

  • Knighthawk says:

    “I think most readers informed by the LongWarJournal were anticipating something like this (and worse things to come)”

    Indeed, though their ‘coming out party’ is little earlier then I expected.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram