Al Qaeda brigade claims attack on Russian forces in Syria

15-09-29 KTJ Rocket Picture

Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), a mainly Uzbek group that formally pledged allegiance to Al Nusrah Front on September 29, has claimed responsibility for an attack on the “Russian infidels” in the Latakia province. The claim could not be independently verified.

In a statement released on its official website, KTJ claims that its “rocket attacks” caused “serious damage” to Bashar al Assad’s regime and the “Russian infidels” at the Hamim military airbase. KTJ’s statement says the rockets were launched by the “jihadist unity in northwest Syria,” a reference to its formal merger with Al Nusrah, and that the “mujahideen” had carried out “several attacks” on the airbase with Grad rockets in the past.

In mid-September, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported “the arrival of warplanes loaded [with] military equipment as well as hundreds of Russian military advisers, experts and technicians” at the Hamim airbase.

Al Nusrah Front is al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. When KTJ announced its bayat (allegiance) to Al Nusrah on September 29, it specifically noted that Al Nusrah “is operating as al Qaeda’s wing in Syria.” It was important to unite against the “Safavid [Iranian]-American-Russian alliance against Muslims,” KTJ stated. However, KTJ had long fought side-by-side with Al Nusrah and other al Qaeda-linked groups against the Assad regime.

KTJ posted the generic photo shown above along with its claim of responsibility for the rocket attack on Russian forces. The al Qaeda brigade did not provide any additional details, saying simply that “local sources” had supposedly corroborated the damage done.

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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  • mike merlo says:

    the Russians will conduct themselves in Syria with aplomb & decisiveness. I also don’t see them in any hurry to destroy & annihilate that which opposes the Assad regime minus the US Shadow Coalition of course. Lest anyone forget it is these Terrorist Armies, now wreaking havoc in the Syrian Iraqi Theater, that afforded not only the Russian’s but also the Iranian’s the opportunity to embed themselves so intimately that they are now as much a part of Assad’s regime as any Syrian. So I’m sure the Russian’s can be expected to take a methodical approach to not only prolong this affray to allow an evolving situation to give them time & space to expand an already expanding presence but to minimize casualties & create conditions that will enhance an already enhanced bargaining position.

    Putin totally has President Obama sussed & cowered. The hollow rhetoric that sputters forth from the US Administrations mouth piece Secretary of State Lurch has US Allies in the region shaking their heads in disbelief & the World At Large gazing glassy eyed in strained bemusement. This just keeps getting better & better. 2016 should be a rollicking year

  • TRM says:

    October 1, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Don’t expect 20 or so Russian airstrikes a day to change the course of the war any more than the 20 or so American air strikes a day have so far. How is that decisiveness?

    Also, you are ignoring that the precipitating cause of the Syrian Civil War was the Assad government trying to terrorize its own people.

  • peccavi says:

    Not sure how that makes sense.
    Russia getting involved and providing close air support will be as decisive as coalition close air support has been or Assads close air support has been.
    In other words not much.
    The Russians have physically entered a quagmire and its curious to see what their exit strategy is.
    This is a ground war and will only be won by retaking territory, the Iranians and Hezboallah have not been able to tip the ground war in Assads balance and it is unlikely the Russians can. Even if they deploy the quantity of troops needed to retake lost ground, they cant sustain it and do not have sufficient non conscript troops and they will be subject to a vicious insurgency.
    With troops commitments in Ukraine and now Syria and with limited expeditionary and logistic capability it is a struggle to see what Russia will achieve.
    However Putin plays a long game so we shall see, but he if the Gulf States or the US want to give Russia a bloody nose, Putin has played right into their hands

  • Dre says:

    Better Russian soldiers than american. That being said us support for Kurds is about the best we can do and we are doing it.

  • David H says:

    Why can’t the western govts. learn from RECENT history of these regime changes? It’s sickeningly frustrating, given, Assad is a horrible human being of the first order, but if the west get their way and he goes, we all know the scenario it is not worth thinking about. Sadaam, Gaddafi, gone, leaving nothing but death, mayhem and misery for untold innocents.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ TRM

    with all due respect “the precipitating cause” is no longer relevant. That time came & went along with some guy making noise about something of a “Red Line” 3 years ago & not following through on it. The latest gathering at the UN just cemented that notion.

    Russian progress will be methodical & positive. Buttressed by thousands of Iranian’s on the ground along with Russian ‘Forward Observers’ & Russian Special Operation’s personnel a couple of thousand, give or take, of Lebanese Hezbollah & whatever remnant’s the Syrians got left to throw into the mix.

    Mind you this isn’t just some Nintendo version of Game Boy. This is reality & reality is principally governed by time space matter & ytivarg. Welcome to it & enjoy the spectacle. Oh yeah & don’t be surprised if a couple Communist Chinese happen to slip into the mix as observers

  • James says:

    Mike, Putin (and the Russians) have no business in Syria.

    Anyone that would want to take the side of a$$ad in this thing all I can say is that you must have never learned your lesson from Vietnam.

    In fact, they are already boasting on the jihadist message boards that like the nightmare that Afghanistan became for the Russians, Syria will be Putin’s worse nightmare ever.

  • An Unhappy Camper says:

    One I would take anything AQ says at this early of a stage with a grain of salt in regards to serious damage to the Russians.

    Two I’m puzzled the Russians have what 12 SU-24’s, 12SU-25’s and 4 SU-30’s? and maybe a couple of dozen transport and attack helicopters? Looking at the map of Syria a force that size seems a little anemic. Even if you have the IRGC and their minions doing the heavy lifting ground wise, if you’re going to make a dent in the rebels you’re would need a force twice maybe three times that size. Maybe they’re not finished building up but right now it seems like a pretty small force to keep Assad in power let alone put the fear of God in the Rebels.

  • James says:

    Actually Mike, the ‘precipitating cause’ of the entire Syrian civil war IS a$$ad. I’ve predicted many many times here on LWJ that a$$ad is the kind of person that will do anything to stay in power; no matter how much misery he has wrought on his own country and people and military. He is the kind of person that says to himself, “If I go down, I’m going to drag everybody else I can down right along with me.”

    He is literally the poster-child for the jihadist recruiters in that region. He is the reason for their being, the essence of their very existence. All these jihadist nut cases were lured to go there to fight a$$ad (including the pukin rejects (i.e., the Chechnyens) which pukin has so conveniently ‘exported’ to there (from Russia with hate).

  • Durango says:

    The Russian’s are focused on their strategic interests, not conquering the greater territorial boundaries of Syria. I see their primary objective as securing an enclave for Assad’s power base and keeping their port in Tartus/influence in the region.

    The better question is how will they get out?

  • mike merlo says:

    @ James says:

    Putin & the Russians have as much business to be in Syria/Middle East as anybody else. Taking sides with sides Assad is a very prudent/smart move on the part of Putin. Vietnam is ancient history. Where is Vietnam today? Busy making overtures to the USA to have Cam Ranh Bay serve as a Port of Call for the US Navy & offering enticements to induce the USA establish a Round The Clock presence there.

    As if “boasting on jihadist message boards” is any kind of threat to Putin. Get real. The post Soviet Russia has been going toe to toe with these jihadist animals coming up on 25 years. They’ve successfully defeated them at every venue they’ve encountered them or sought them out. Like Vietnam Afghanistan is ancient history.

  • MK says:

    Reza- “Vlad the Ayatollah asks you sweeten the deal. If we buy the $20 billion in satellites, arms, and nuke tech, you gotta help out a bit with some air support in Latakia”
    Vlad- “Done deal, it will play out well at home, show everyone how good our weapons are, and of course put Ukraine on the backburner” “Hell for $20 billion i might fly one of those sorties myself, without a shirt on”
    Reza-“great. we will bring you on board with Baghdad”
    Vlad-“round two will be some oil exploration contracts for Gazprom?”
    Reza-“as we agreed in Moscow, trade in arms is only the beginning. And we love your idea for an alternative currency and banking system”
    Vlad-“yeah, the Chinese are down with that as well”

  • mike merlo says:

    @ peccavi says:

    I actually agree with much of what you’ve posted but I also know some of what you’ve posted is wide of the mark. Its only a “quagmire” if one conducts oneself as if behaving as if one is in a “quagmire.” There is no “exit strategy.” This is permanent unless a Military Force stronger than the Russians & determined to oust them comes along & decides to go to War with them. If you’re Putin & Russia it makes all the sense in the world to go ‘all the way’ in Syria. They’ll never get another opportunity like this for years if not decades.

    Russian Air Support along with the requisite Forward Observers & Special Operations personnel will have a decidedly huge positive impact for Assad & his new Masters Russia & Iran. The Iranian’s by my estimations have around 110,000, give or take, Military Personnel spread throughout the Syrian Iraqi Theater with that number to rapidly swell by at least another 30,000 more likely to 50,000plus if not tens of thousands more. Hezbollah is probably slobbin along at anywhere between 2,500 5,500 maybe more. The Syrian Military probably has some where in the vicinity of a 150,000 personnel still hangin in there. Russia just conducted a large scale Military Exercise involving close to 100,000 personnel, many of whom weren’t Russian. Its also been ‘observed’ the Russians having conducted close to 80 Military Exercises in the month of August alone. Many of these Exercises were conducted in the Astrakhan region of Russia by the Caspian Sea. That tells me that these exercises were conducted there as a matter of convenience to bring in large numbers of Iranians to participate. Most likely to square away issues of communication, Command & Control, synchronization of Air Support, Armored Forces, Infantry, etc.,.

    This is an extremely serious high stakes gambit on the part of Putin. He will not short change himself or try to squeeze by on the cheap. This Force will simply bludgeon their way through. Expect heavy bombing & massive artillery barrages. This is just a repeat of the Soviets hammering the NAZI’s in their ‘drive’ to the west to reach Berlin Germany during WWII. Nothing fancy. Just an unrelenting ‘meat grinder.’ The Syrian Government just days ago handed over 75 Tanks to Hezbollah. Following the Air & Artillery assault these guys are just going to mount a full scale frontal armored assault with probably some flanking movement to north to link up with the Syrian Kurds & cutoff any retreat to Turkey. And on & on it will go.

    Russia & Iran can sustain this effort & will sustain it. They have no choice. They’re fully committed. This ties in to the “long game” you’ve ‘spoke’ of. Take a look at a map & you’ll see the emerging scenario plain as day. Russia & Communist China with Iran as maybe a full partner or most likely a junior partner at this time are making a play on the Indian Ocean. The Russian Naval Base at Tartus in Syria along with the beefing up, modernization & expansion of the Air Force Base in the same vicinity give the Russians 24/7 Round the Clock presence in the Eastern Mediterranean & a ‘Sentinel’ Presence over the Northern Outlet of the Suez Canal. If Iran’s Houthi Proxy is successful in Yemen the Russian Communist China Iranian nexus is well positioned at the Red Sea. By default Iran is already ideally situated geographically to control the Persian Gulf & Straits of Hormuz or at the very least make it very very difficult for anyone trying some monkey business. Communist China has already secured their end of the bargain with the establishing of Naval Presence in the South China Sea. There’s your “long view.”

    Expect the Russian Navy to pay a visit to the Communist Chinese at their facility in the South China Sea next year & jointly sail through the Strait of Malacca traverse the Indian Ocean(say hello to T Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet) stopping where ever & when ever along the way to loiter their way through the Red Sea & the Suez Canal to enjoy some Plum Wine & Vodka at the Russian Port in Tartus Syria & possibly throw in a sight seeing tour to Black Sea just for kicks with another round of Plum Wine & Vodka at some Port in Crimea. Welcome to geopolitics. I’m sure Admiral Mahan is ‘rolling
    in his grave’.

    So there is no doubt in my mind that the Russians, Iranians & their squirrely hanger ons, Syria & Hezbollah, will full on savage what opposes them in Syria with as few casualties as possible, take as much real estate as they can get their claws & bring as much fire power to bear as they possibly can & then some. They most likely won’t get everything they want on the 1st Offensive but they’ll most definitely take a whole lot back thats been lost over the last few years. Another very very important piece of this puzzle is President Obama. The whole world knows he’s to timid to do anything more than make some noise & blame every & anybody but himself. So the Russians, Communist Chinese & Iranians know that whatever they need to do they need to do it over the next 14 months.

  • maverick says:

    I pity any Russians serving in Syria ,either those who become casualties or worse those who are taken alive. al queda was born after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ,the Islamist propoganda machine will go into overdrive and recruits will flock to Syria.

  • Arjuna says:

    Sorry, James. You won’t find any support for your knee-jerk, anti-Assad views on here, no matter how you spell it out.

    Assad is fighting for his life. He is the President of the country. He is opposed by an enemy that is over 90% hothead (no lawyers and accountants left, they’re all in Germany). We backed an ill-timed, badly conceived uprising/coup attempt in Syria, and now we are seeing the fruits of Uncle Sam’s regime change attempts.

    If you are going to topple a dictator, you have to do it swiftly. Dictators will win any wars of attrition and put down insurrections, if given enough time and assistance from outside. Which is just what we are seeing now.

    Nobody hates torturers more than me. I am from the country that invented stress positions and EITs and tried to legalize and sanitize torture…. ugh. But handing Syria to the fuzzies by crushing what’s left of the Syrian state is not the answer.

  • Arjuna says:

    I pity the poor fuzzies who are learning first-hand about the efficacy of modern Russian weaponry! Thank God Putin has the stones to act decisively in the face of a threat.


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