Al Nusrah Front releases photos of training camp in northwestern Syria

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The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, released several photographs of a training camp in the northwestern province of Idlib. The al Qaeda group is operating camps in Syria despite US air operations in Syria, which have not targeted the group since Sept. 22.

The photographs were released on a Twitter account associated with the Al Nusrah Front’s wiliyat, or administrative district, in Idlib. The logo on the pictures is the same one used by the Al Nusrah Front and bears the name Al Manarah al Bayda, or The White Lighthouse, which is the group’s official media outlet. The words “Idlib Correspondent” are also included on the logo.

The photographs show Al Nusrah Front fighters in training. The jihadists are photographed while marching in formation, receiving firearms instructions, and firing handguns and AK-47 assault rifles. In each photograph, the Al Nusrah Front’s black banner of jihad is flying.

The Al Nusrah Front has released videos and photographs of its training facilities in the past. In March, the group released videos from the Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Ghadiya camps. The Ayman al Zawahiri Camp was located in the city of Deir al Zour and was named after al Qaeda’s current emir. Nusrah likely abandoned this camp when the rival Islamic State took control of the most of Dier al Zour province last summer. The Abu Ghadiya Camp is named after the leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq facilitation network that was based in eastern Syria. Abu Ghadiya was killed in a US special operations raid in 2008. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front names training camps after top al Qaeda leaders.]

The Al Nusrah Front has been known to be running training camps in eastern Syria since December 2012, when the US added one of its camp commanders to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

The Treasury Department added Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al Juburi to the list of global terrorists the same day that the State Department added the Al Nusrah Front to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Al Juburi is an Iraqi citizen who has been involved in attacking US forces in Iraq since 2004 as part of al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Treasury, al Juburi “moved from Mosul, Iraq to Syria in late 2011 to exploit Syria’s more permissive security environment with the objectives of transferring al Qaeda’s ideology to Syria and forming likeminded terrorist groups.” He became Al Nusrah’s “religious and military commander” in eastern Syria and ran a training camp. [See LWJ report, US adds Al Nusrah Front, 2 leaders to terrorism list.]

US has targeted Al Nusrah Front camps in Idlib

The US is known to have targeted training camps run by the Al Nusrah Front in northwestern Syria. On Sept. 22, the opening day of US airstrikes in Syria, the US “fired 46 cruise missiles at eight locations” belonging to the Al Nusrah Front, The Associated Press reported. At least one of the strikes is thought to have targeted Idlib, as civilians were reported killed in the province.

In a press release announcing the strikes, the US military said it targeted more than one training camp associated with the “Khorasan Group,” which is merely a name for a cadre of established Al Nusrah Front leaders and al Qaeda operatives who are coordinating attacks against the West. [See LWJ reports, Senior al Qaeda strategist part of so-called ‘Khorasan group’ and Al Qaeda leader claims key operative in so-called ‘Khorasan group’ was killed.]

“In total, US Central Command forces conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets located west of Aleppo, to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities,” CENTCOM reported. Idlib is southwest of Aleppo.

Abu Yusuf al Turki, an Al Nusrah Front “commander” who trained fighters how to become snipers, was killed in the Sept. 22 airstrikes. Al Turki, whose real name is Ümit Yaşar Toprak, was involved in a 2004 plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush during a NATO summit in Instanbul. He also fought in Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front trainer suspected of plotting against 2004 NATO summit killed in US airstrikes.]

The Al Nusrah Front and the so-called Khorasan Group remain in operation despite the Sept. 22 airstrikes. The US and allied countries have launched 111 strikes in Syria since Sept. 23, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal and Qualitative Military Edge. None have targeted al Qaeda’s network in Syria since the first day of airstrikes in Syria.

Photos from the Al Nusrah Front camp in Idlib

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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5 Comments

  • ken.north says:

    It is interesting to see the increasing emphasis on training with sidearms; historically, there is not that much evidence that this was a priority with jihadist groups.
    Clearly, it makes sense to develop these skills as a backup to the shoulder-fired weapon. This may also indicate, however, a growing recognition that pistol fire can be devastatingly effective in close quarter battle, particularly in room clearing and urban operations.
    It certainly isn’t Gunsite, but every trainee depicted here is frontally aligned, bringing his weapon to eye level, and seemingly finding his front sight. Those capabilities alone should make them combat effective at a social distance of 10-12 yards. That doesn’t bode well, particularly when smuggling or otherwise acquiring pistols into the West is not that difficult.
    The pistol is just another tool in the tool-box, but assuredly not one to be discounted out of hand. Four Taliban teenagers ably demonstrated that in March, 2014 when they slaughtered nine civilians at a party in Kabul’s Serena Hotel, using .25 mouse guns. Head shots all, so they presumably found their minuscule front sights.

  • DJ100 says:

    Bomb the hell out of them. Oh wait, we are not targeting them! What the….

  • Mike in San Diego says:

    Where is a drone when you need one…?
    2 more years with Barry as Pres. and ISIS will be crossing the English Channel.
    Dangerous times.

  • Eric Sykes says:

    With the U.S. engaging Islamic State while funding, arming, and training “moderate” rebels whose loyalties are questionable and whose goals and objectives differ from that of the U.S., not to mention these Nusrah Front goons waiting in the wings makes a very perplexing problem of their (the U.S.) own creation. With so many different variables contributing to the situation, it’s probably best to stick with the evil you know. Assads looking pretty good right now.
    The chief reason why the campaign against al Qaeda in Iraq was the success it was was due to ground operations which yielded actionable intelligence – cell phones, computers, documents, etc which facilitated operations targeting more senior al Qaeda leadership members. Is there any efforts underway to capture and exploit intelligence at the sites of these airstrikes? If not then it would be a fatal flaw.

  • Paul says:

    Our fight against radical jihadists in Iraq & Syria looks like a PR stunt to me.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis