Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, Ajnad al Sham form anti-Russian alliance in Damascus countryside

Three jihadist groups in Syria have formed a joint operations room in the Damascus countryside to combat the Syrian regime and Russian forces. The three organizations are Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham and Ajnad al Sham. The alliance, named Jund al Malahim (“Soldiers of the Epics”), is the latest in a series of jihadist-led coalitions formed by Al Nusrah, an official branch of al Qaeda, and Ahrar al Sham, which is linked to al Qaeda. The most prominent of these joint ventures is Jaysh al Fateh (“Army of Conquest”), which overran most of the Idlib province beginning in March.

15-10-21 Jund al Malahim operations room

The founding statement for the Jund al Malahim operations room (seen on the right) was posted on the official Twitter feeds of all three organizations on October 21. The jihadist groups say a “fierce attack” has been unleashed on the Muslim ummah (community of worldwide Muslims) in the Levant and elsewhere. And the Russians have joined this supposed assault by “following in the footsteps of the rejectionists [meaning Shiites and Iran], the crusaders and their allies.”

The jihadists say that due to the “suffocating siege” unleashed by Bashar al Assad’s “criminal regime” in the “blessed eastern Al Ghouta” countryside of Damascus, a new initiative became “necessary for all of the loyal and honest people to gather” together to “repulse” the “attack on the land of Muslims.”

Assad’s regime has committed a number of crimes, according to Jund al Malahim’s founding parties. These include the displacement of of Al Ghouta’s residents in order to create a “rejectionist [Shiite] region” that would “change” the “identity” of Damascus. The goal is to “isolate it from the Muslim ummah that is waging jihad.”

“We ask Allah almighty to make this operations room the beginning of a larger coalition that would gather factions under one flag and one army” that defends Muslims, attacks “the enemies of our sect and faith,” and liberates “the capital of the Umayyad,” the statement reads. The last part is a reference to the Umayyad dynasty, which ruled over one of the great Islamic caliphates.

Notably absent from Jund al Malahim is Jaysh al Islam, which is one of the largest rebel groups Al Ghouta. Jaysh al Islam has cooperated with Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham, but has also had disagreements with them. Jaysh al Islam is widely suspected of being backed by Saudi Arabia.

Like the other coalitions founded by Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham this year, Jund al Malahim has its own logo, which can be seen at the top of its founding statement.

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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  • James says:

    This should have been predictable. If anything, Russia’s intervention into this thing will only cause the various jihadist groups to unite (minus ISIS). At least we had some solace before this that they were spending a substantial part of their time slaughtering each other.

    Somebody needs to get it across to Putin. He (a$$ad) is just not worth it. He’s more trouble than what he’s worth (a whole lot more). Kind of like the Hope Diamond. You think it’s got some value, but it turns out to be the biggest curse of all (and so it is with a$$ad).

    It is a$$ad’s war over there more than anything else.

  • Marc Epstein says:

    Would it be possible to add a print-friendly format to your site?

  • Alex says:

    Let’s see if Putin has bitten off more than he can chew. Bear in mind that the Ukraine crisis has been going on for almost 2 years, yet Russia only controls about 5-10% of the country. Paper tiger?

  • tuffsnotenuff says:

    1. Qassem Suleimani gets hands-on control of anti-Jihadi anti-Sharia operations. Strategy becomes a factor.

    2. Siege warfare ensues directly as at al-Qusayr, Amerli, Jurf al-Sakhar, Tikrit, Zeb basin. On going at Mosul, Fallujah and Ramadi, at the area south and east from Damascus, forming up around Aleppo.

    3. That’s Surround-and-Annihilate, which has a long tradition and not only in this region. With America arming “Moderate Syrian” al-Qaeda Jihadis and “Moderate Syrian” Muslim Brotherhood HAMAS-lookalikes, what the Hell ???

    4. And in Quds, Likudnik Israelis are obsessed with Hezbollah. Which has aged into what other observers see as a local “Basij” lookalike — not a wack-job threat like HAMAS. What? There’s part time work over there shilling for the Sa’uds?

  • irebukeu says:

    I think Putin’s plan in the Ukraine is a kind of ‘slow burn’ with some Russian version of plausible deniability dribbled out. I think he is just willing to outlast the Ukrainians and the west with more dislocation of loyal Ukrainians westward. The game is up. It is just a matter of what part of the ukraine is lost and when.

    I think his plan is a to seek a gain on the battlefield to force a political settlement which it probably is, a settlement favorable to Russian ideas of a future Syria.


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