Harakat Sham al Islam operates training camp in northwest Syria

Map of known provincial locations of training camps run by the Islamic State, the Al Nusrah Front, and allied jihadist groups since 2012. Map created by Caleb Weiss and Bill Roggio.

A training camp run by Harakat Sham al Islam, a group founded by Moroccan jihadists, was promoted yesterday by the Ansar al Din Front, a coalition to which Harakat Sham al Islam belongs in Syria. The facility was publicized in two tweets showing recruits undergoing firearms training and a fighter holding the group’s flag at the camp in the western port city of Latakia.

In a series of posts on Twitter yesterday, the Ansar al Din Front highlighted several training camps used by its constituent groups. Facilities belonging to Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, a Chechen-led entity and the largest group in the coalition, and Harakat Fajr al Sham al Islamiya, a local Syrian organization based in Aleppo, were also showcased. The two groups have previously been noted by The Long War Journal to be running camps in Aleppo province. The Harakat Sham al Islam camp brings the total number of facilities identified by The Long War Journal to 52. [For more information on jihadist training camps in Iraq and Syria, see LWJ reports, Jihadist training camps proliferate in Iraq and Syria, 3 new jihadist training camps identified in Syria, Jihadists tout training camps for children in Iraq and Syria and More jihadist training camps identified in Iraq and Syria.]

Harakat Sham al Islam was designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department in September. State described the jihadist group as “a Moroccan-led terrorist organization operating in Syria principally composed of foreign fighters.” The designation also noted that Harakat Sham al Islam operates alongside and is allied to the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.

Harakat Sham al Islam was founded in 2013 by Ibrahim bin Shakran, Ahmed Mizouz, and Mohammed Alami, three Moroccans who were captured in Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001, detained at Guantanamo Bay, and then released to the custody of the Moroccan government in 2004. Bin Shakran was let go despite an assessment by Joint Task Force Guantanamo that identified him as a “high-ranking member” of the theological commission of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization.

Bin Shakran led Harakat Sham al Islam until he was killed while fighting alongside Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham, and Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar during the Al Anfal offensive in Latakia earlier this year. [See LWJ report, Former Guantanamo detainee killed while leading jihadist group in Syria, for more details on Bin Shakran.]

Alami, one of the aforementioned co-founders of the group, was killed in Syria in August 2013.

Harakat Sham al Islam, Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, Katibat al Khadra, and Harakat Fajr al Sham al Islamiya merged to form the Ansar al Din Front on July 25. Katibat al Khadra, a predominately Saudi group, pledged bayat (allegiance) to Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar on Oct. 4.

Pictures released by the Ansar al Din Front showing the Harakat Sham al Islam camp

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Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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