Syrian troops, Hezbollah fighters kill foreign jihadists in ambush

The Syrian military and its ally Hezbollah killed more than 170 Islamists from the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and the Islamic Front during an ambush in an area just outside of the capital of Damascus. “Saudis, Qataris, and Chechens” were among those killed, according to the government-owned news agency.

“A military source said that an army unit eliminated scores of terrorists of ‘Jabhat al Nusrah’ and the so-called “Islam battalion” according to intelligence information in an ambush in the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Countryside,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA, reported.

An estimated “175 terrorists were killed” and “most of them [were] Saudis, Qataris, and Chechens.” according to SANA.

The SANA report was corroborated by the independent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as well as Al Manar, a news outlet run by Hezbollah.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “no less than 70 fighters from Islamic battalions, were killed by an ambush by Hezbollah and regime forces, between the towns of Al-Eteba and Myda’a in the eastern Ghouta.” An additional 89 fighters were separated from the main group and “they may have been killed [in] the ambush.”

The Observatory often uses the term “Islamic battalions” to describe the Islamic Front, the coalition of six major Islamist brigades that was formed late last year and is allied with the Al Nusrah Front. Abu Khalid al Suri, a senior Islamic Front leader who was killed last weekend, served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s personal representative for Syria.

Al Manar reported that “up to 170 terrorist militants, including foreigners” were killed “through a perfect ambush” by the Syrian military. Al Manar did not report on Hezbollah involvement in the attack.

Foreign fighters often join with Al Nusrah or the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, but also are known to fight in the brigades of the Islamic Front.

Chechens fight within the ranks of the Muhajireen Army, which has split into two factions. One faction fights for Al Nusrah, and another fights for the ISIS. Saifullah al Shishani, a Chechen commander who led a large unit in Al Nusrah, was killed by the Syrian military in early February during fighting in Aleppo.

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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  • m3fd2002 says:

    I saw the video showing bodies. It looked like they were summarily executed, not ambushed. Regardless, there were many bodies, lined up on a elevated dirt road. Maybe they were placed there after an engagement. Who knows. They could be anyone.

  • mike says:

    I would like to know how the Islamic proganda machine will manipulate this ambush as far as who was martyred and who was a puppet. Either way carry on

  • Barry Larking says:

    One of the extremely rare occasions when one thinks “I do hope some were British”.
    Perfect ambush. Methinks this boat sprang a leak.

  • AMac says:

    Smiles in Ridyah, no doubt.
    This development brings to mind a column by Gary Brecher (“War Nerd”) from December 2013:

    …of all their many skills, the one the Saudis have mastered most thoroughly is disruption… They don’t just “turn a blind eye” to young Saudi men going off to do jihad—they cheer them on. It’s a brilliant strategy that kills two very dangerous birds with one plane ticket. By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.
    …Jihad is like the princess in those fairy tales: It draws all the daring young princes to undertake quests no underwriter would insure, and in the process gets them far away from home during their most aggressive years. Better yet from the Sauds’ point of view, most of them die.

  • irebukeu says:

    Video of the ambush available here.
    Aftermath video of attack available here.

  • Bungo says:

    Sounds like one helluva firefight. And not one prisoner taken alive?

  • Jason B says:

    I saw the video of the attack, and the aftermath…… What type weapon it was I can’t quite figure out. Very linear and explosive, but the dry grasses surrounding the bodies in the aftermath video weren’t burned. Hmmmm.

  • Michael Green says:

    This is excellent news and hopefully many more of these Islamist savages will be dispatched straight to hell.

  • billy says:

    This video claiming to be of the incident showed up on twitter yesterday. I think it’s still unconfirmed:
    If it’s real it would be incredibly similar to attack carried out by al Nusrah Front in Dec 2012:
    LWJ wrote this post on the al Nusrah Front video, which brought it to everyone’s attention:

  • Ravi says:

    WashPo Thursday Feb 27 2014 says that 100 of the 170 were civilians. But since WashPo does not claim any of the civilians were women or children, perhaps they mean that they were not in uniform?
    I see you are associated with FDD. Congratulations and, as always, thanks for all the good work that you. Anyone asks me a question to do with terrorism I simply refer them to your website.

  • wallbangr says:

    From the video on Al Manar, this was pretty devastating. It looked like a few hundred individuals all of whom were walking in a single file line through the desert with little to no cover. Even under mortar or small arms fire, they would have presented an easy grouping to target. Suddenly, the entire path they were on explodes, leaving all but a handful still moving — mostly running wildly for some sort of cover. The 170 number seems about right based on the video. Heck, I might have believed higher were it not coming from an official media organ of Hezbollah/Assad. They somehow managed to funnel all of these incoming fighters through a mined path in the desert and then detonated the mines right under them. There appeared to be very few survivors from the initial blasts and they then, purportedly, brought in mortar fire down on the few who were still alive. Even rebel-friendly reporting admits that the casualties were very high.

  • Olman says:

    Ref-jason b and Dry Grass…just my observation…
    Reminds me of “after Popping a Tannerite Charge.” When grass is present, it looks like that.. DRIED. Only not quite as large.. Haha

  • Magnus H says:

    Could the US perhaps learn from the this war to become more effective in eliminating terrorist? Have the US succeeded in destroying 170 terrorists in one go?

  • Michael John says:

    I had the guilty pleasure of watching the videos twice. Innocent people will not be threatened by their twisted ideology, that everyone is impure except them; hence we must pay for falling short. Those misfits are mainly being churned out by Saudi Arabia. The jihadist, salafist, Wahhabis and other grotesque “ist” are simply worms that destroy. Now the Saudis are taking steps to issue their vermin in Syria with anti-aircraft missiles. We know where this is heading. Stay grounded my friends.

  • 5150 says:

    Perhaps a thermal munition was not employed. Your focus should not be the condition of the grass or other nearby foliage, but the conditions of the enemy dead. The absence of external injuries indicates that beaucoup bad guys died as a direct result of of blast over-pressurization stress waves. Pulmonary contusion and other fatal organ rupture.
    Syrians know to handle business.

  • wallbangr says:

    @5150: If it wasn’t a thermal munition, what was it? Just a whole lot of HE?

  • Colin says:

    Some people think it was 2 mine clearing charges hidden along the path. Either the rebels started using this path all the time or the Syrian army had a source within. All the dead I saw were males of fighting age.


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