Jaysh al Fath coalition launches new offensive in Aleppo province

16-05-06 Al Nusra drone footage of VBIED attackAl Nusrah Front used a drone to record a VBIED attack in Khan Tuman.

Jaysh al Fath (the “Army of Conquest”), a jihadist-led alliance of rebel groups, has launched a new offensive south of the Syrian city of Aleppo. The early fighting centered on the town of Khan Tuman, where a suicide bomber detonated a large vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in an area controlled by fighters defending Bashar al Assad’s regime.

Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, released a video of the “martyr,” identified as Abu Jafar al Dairi, who delivered his last statement before the attack.

The al Qaeda branch has also used small drones to record the fighting from overhead. One short clip shows a Shiite fighter being cornered near Khan Tuman. Another focuses on al Dairi’s VBIED and the forces flowing into the town behind him.

Jihadists in Libya and Syria now regularly use drones to produce content. The aerial footage provides an especially effective way to highlight the drama of the fighting.

Al Nusrah is a founding member Jaysh al Fath, a coalition that overran Syria’s northwestern Idlib province last year. Several other organizations are part of Jaysh al Fath in Aleppo province and some of them have also produced propaganda from Khan Tuman and the surrounding area. (Photos and screenshots from their social media outlets can be seen at the end of this article.)

One of Al Nusrah’s coalition partners is Ajnad al Sham, which tweeted a series of photos depicting its members preparing and firing mortars. Ajnad al Sham followed these images with a map of the area, claiming that Khan Tuman had been completely “liberated.”

Assad’s regime has responded to Jaysh al Fath’s assault with a heavy barrage of airstrikes from fighter jets and helicopters. An infographic produced by Ajnad al Sham purportedly provides a tally of the bombings in the area.

Other groups that belong to Jaysh al Fath, such as Ahrar al Sham, Liwa al Haqq, and Jaysh al Sunna, have posted messages on their official Twitter feeds regarding the new campaign. Still others, such as Faylaq al Sham (Sham Legion), are part of Jaysh al Fath as well.

Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, has carried out its own operations against Assad and his Shiite allies. Jund al Aqsa withdrew from Jaysh al Fath last year after it objected to the actions taken by some of the alliance’s other members. It has not rejoined Jaysh al Fath, at least not officially. Jund al Aqsa’s propaganda does not include Jaysh al Fath’s watermark, which can be found in the upper right hand corner of each member organization’s media.

However, Jund al Aqsa is clearly coordinating with Al Nusrah and others on the battlefield. The group produced its own drone footage of the raid on Khan Tuman and claims to have captured Shiite fighters in the town. One of its military commanders, along with other “martyrs,” also died during the conflict.

An Al Nusrah video praises the role played by Jund al Aqsa and the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which has long been part of al Qaeda’s international network. One of the TIP’s founders was even chosen to sit on al Qaeda’s elite shura council. The TIP not only fights inside Syria as one of Al Nusrah’s closest partners, but also in Afghanistan, where it has been integrated into Taliban-led insurgency.

According to Al Masdar News, which has sources inside Assad’s government, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has reportedly fought alongside Hezbollah and Harakat Al Nujaba, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militia that has played an increasingly significant role inside Syria.

In early April, Al Nusrah captured al-‘Iss hill and the small village that sits at its base. Although not a heavily populated area, al-‘Iss is considered a strategically important crossroads inside Aleppo province. The move was designed to stymie Assad and his partners, who had been on the march.

Jaysh al Fath also overran several towns and villages as part of a counteroffensive in the southern part of Aleppo province last November.

Propaganda from the battle of Khan Tuman

Al Nusrah Front’s photos and screenshots from its videos:

16-05-05 Nusra fighting under Jaysh al Fath banner 3

16-05-05 Nusra making progress in Khan Tuman as part of Jaysh al Fath 1

16-05-05 Nusra making progress in Khan Tuman as part of Jaysh al Fath 2

16-05-05 Nusra making progress in Khan Tuman as part of Jaysh al Fath 3

Drone footage from Al Nusrah’s video of a Shiite fighter, possibly a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), being ambushed near Khan Tuman:

16-05-05 Ambush of Shiite fighter near Khan Tuman 1

16-05-05 Ambush of Shiite fighter near Khan Tuman 2

16-05-05 Ambush of Shiite fighter near Khan Tuman 3

The Nusrah “martyr” who blew himself up in Khan Tuman:

16-05-05 Nusra martyr fighting under Jaysh al Fath banner

Ajnad al Sham’s photos, infographic summarizing bombings and map of area:

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham fighting in Aleppo under Jaysh al Fath banner 1

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham fighting in Aleppo under Jaysh al Fath banner 2

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham fighting in Aleppo under Jaysh al Fath banner 3

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham fighting in Aleppo under Jaysh al Fath banner 4

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham fighting in Aleppo under Jaysh al Fath banner 5

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham fighting in Aleppo under Jaysh al Fath banner 6

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham infographic on bombings

16-05-05 Ajnad al Sham map of Khan Touman

Jund al Aqsa’s propaganda, including screenshots of its video footage recorded with a drone:

16-05-06 Jund al Aqsa drone footage from Khan Tuman 2

16-05-06 Jund al Aqsa drone footage from Khan Tuman 3

16-05-06 Jund al Aqsa drone footage from Khan Tuman 4

16-05-06 Jund al Aqsa drone footage from Khan Tuman 5

Two Shiite fighters captured by Jund al Aqsa:

16-05-06 Jund al Aqsa captured Shiite fighters in Khan Tuman

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? This holiday season we are asking readers to support our independent reporting and analysis by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis