Al Nusrah Front releases eulogy commemorating Ahrar al Sham leaders

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The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has released a eulogy honoring the Ahrar al Sham leaders killed in an explosion yesterday. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Al Nusrah says the people of Syria and the entire Islamic ummah [worldwide community of Muslims] have “lost a group from the best of its men and leaders, leaving behind a wound that will not heal, and a gap that is not easy to fill and fortify.”

“The trust remains around all of our necks to complete the march, and to achieve the desired goal, which is establishing a rightly-guided Islamic government on the blessed land of Sham [Syria],” Al Nusrah’s statement reads, according to SITE’s translation.

Ahrar al Sham and Al Nusrah are close allies and fight side-by-side throughout Syria against Bashar al Assad’s forces and the Islamic State, the former al Qaeda branch that has captured large swaths of Iraq and Syria since earlier this year.

Ahrar al Sham is the most powerful rebel group within the Islamic Front, which is a coalition of several insurgency organizations.

Hassan Abboud, Ahrar al Sham’s leader and the political chief of the Islamic Front, was among those killed in yesterday’s explosion. Abboud’s righthand man was a jihadist named Mohamed Bahaiah, also known as Abu Khalid al Suri. Bahaiah was both a cofounder of Ahrar al Sham and senior al Qaeda operative until he was killed in a suicide attack in February. Bahaiah served as one of Ayman al Zawahiri’s chief representatives in Syria at the time of his death.

The Islamic Front announced yesterday that the Ahrar al Sham leaders were killed in a car bombing. Subsequent reports have cast doubt on that claim, and it is not clear what caused the explosion.

Al Nusrah does not address the circumstances surrounding the explosion, or blame any party for the Ahrar al Sham leaders’ deaths.

“To our brothers in the Ahrar al Sham Movement, we say: Be patient and endure, and remain garrisoned, for this is the tax of the road, and this is the effort of the honest mujahideen,” Al Nusrah’s statement reads.

Al Nusrah advises Ahrar al Sham’s remaining leaders and fighters: “Be with the patient mujahideen until you achieve what your commanders and emirs wished for and sought for its sake, until the Shariah of Allah is established in His land, and justice and security prevails in the entirety of the Levant.”

The Al Nusrah Front’s statement was released on its official Twitter feed. The group’s Twitter page had been recently taken down, but was quickly relaunched at a new handle.

Al Nusrah’s statement is not the first message from al Qaeda mourning the Ahrar al Sham leaders. In the hours after the explosion yesterday, several high-ranking al Qaeda operatives in Syria and elsewhere took to their Twitter feeds to praise their fallen comrades in Ahrar al Sham.

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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