Videos show joint Al Nusrah, Free Syrian Army attacks in ancient village

A video posted online by Ahrar al Sham “suggests that at least three distinct rebel groups were involved in the attack in Malula,” Syria this week, The New York Times reports. In addition to Ahrar al Sham, al Qaeda’s Al Nusrah Front and a Free Syrian Army brigade from Homs took part in the fighting. But it is not clear “how closely they cooperated with one another,” according to the Times.

Malula is an ancient town northeast of Damascus and is known for its Christian population. The Times previously reported that the town is one of the few places left in the world where Aramaic is spoken.

Ahrar al Sham is an extremist rebel group that frequently fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front. The group posted at least two videos online showing its participation in the fighting in Malula.

In one of the videos, according to the Times, the cameraman says the attack was “coordinated” with the Al Nusrah Front.

Other videos posted by a Free Syrian Army brigade show its fighters also participating in the assault.

According to the Associated Press, the Al Nusrah Front launched the dawn raid on Sept. 4 when a suicide bomber “blew himself up at a regime checkpoint at the entrance to the village.” The rebels “seized the checkpoint, disabled two tanks and an armored personnel carrier and killed eight regime soldiers in” the fighting that followed.

The AP cited a Syrian regime official and the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) in its reporting on Al Nusrah’s role. Residents took sanctuary in a village convent.

Condemning Western intervention

Separately, an umbrella group of Salafi rebels led by Ahrar al Sham condemned any possible Western intervention. “The true goal behind this military operation – if it happens – is to achieve the interests of its perpetrators,” the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF) said in a statement released on its Facebook page. “This operation is a prelude to political projects that are imposed and connected to these interests,” SIF warned.

The SIF statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The group goes on to stress the “obligation of unifying ranks” against Assad’s regime.

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

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  • Stephanie says:

    I have been to this beautiful village, once a very peaceful place and one that attracted many pilgrims (both Christian and Muslim) who came to pray for miracles. Very sad to see this happen.

  • NP says:

    They appear to have attacked only the army checkpoint and not the town itself. Is this correct? Could it be that Assad is attempting to bait rebels into conducting attacks around Christian towns for propaganda purposes? There is no doubt that certain extremist elements fighting the Assad regime have targeted and committed atrocities against Christians there but is it sanctioned by the grass roots uprising? I tend to believe that it’s being misrepresented in the media.

  • . says:

    In addition to wanting to get involved in yet another military entanglement, the United States wants to provide air cover for al Qaeda’s Al Nusrah Front and other rebel groups.

  • Celtiberian says:

    After Iraq exodus, now the Christians are about to be massacred and expelled from their ancient homeland in Syria. ;Many have fallen in these two years, including beheaded priests.
    Their plight ignored in the West, it’s ironic that their survival is only assured by the Syrian army, the same army we westerners are about to bomb helping the beheaders and sharia-imposing rebels to overrun still more villages and to eventually win the whole Syria for their fanatical project of minorities extermination and islamic rule.
    If rebels come to power in Syria, that will become Afghanistan times 10, and with CW and cutting edge antiarcraft and anti-tank missiles in the hands of the jihadists.
    Crazy times.

  • NP says:

    Again, nobody answered the question. The reports I have read indicate a sort of truce between the rebels in the surrounding hillside and the town respecting its ancient status of a place for healing by all religious sects. We are not providing air cover for Al Nusrah Front. If there are planes flying over Al Nusrah then they had better be taking cover. Assad only care’s about regime survival. He is putting his troops in Christian areas, knowing they will draw in rebel fighters. It’s funny that Sunni fighters from the Awakening movement are urging their brethren in Syria to reject Al Nusrah and AQI. All people live under fear and oppression underneath the Assad regime. I’m tired of hearing baseless accusations claiming we are supporting Al Qaeda extremists in Syria. Show me some hard evidence of direct support.

  • alan says:

    I fear for the Christians in that village. The idea that the USAF should become Al Qaeda’s air force is beyond crazy.
    Allawites, jews and Christians are all seen as pigs and dogs by Al Nusrah and the lucky ones in this village will be those that are killed quickly.

  • dronestriker says:

    From what I’ve been reading from reporters on the ground in Syria. Al nusrah has changed their game plan and have been trying to win hearts and minds lately. They are rejecting AQ and trying to gain support from the people by providing them with welfare programs. This is quite common to alot of bin laden ideas in the abbodabad documents.


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