The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has posted a series of photos showing what appears to be more than 100 newly-graduated jihadists in Idlib. In late March, Al Nusrah and its jihadist allies overran the provincial capital of Idlib. Their coalition, named Jaysh al Fateh (“Army of Conquest”), has continued to fight against regime forces in the surrounding areas in the weeks that followed. Al Nusrah began a big push in northern Syria late last year, taking the fight to both Western-backed rebel groups and Bashar al Assad’s regime.
Al Nusrah posted the photos reproduced below for propaganda purposes. However, the images do document the organization’s ability to churn out numerous new trainees. The jihadists’ successes in northern Syria have undoubtedly contributed to the Al Nusrah’s popularity. Some of the photos show the new graduates jumping through rings of fire — a common motif in jihadist imagery through the years.
According to the 9/11 Commission’s final report, between 10,000 and 20,000 recruits were trained in al Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. The organization selected the best and brightest for full membership in al Qaeda, and some of them for leadership positions. A cadre of recruits was also chosen to take part in al Qaeda’s plotting against the West. Al Qaeda is repeating this selection process today in Syria, as well as in jihadist hotspots elsewhere.
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