Uzbek groups part of new offensive in southern Aleppo

Footage from Katibat Imam al Bukhari from Maarata

As the Jaysh al Fateh (“Army of Conquest”) coalition, which was cofounded by the Al Nusrah Front, continues its renewed offensive in southern Aleppo, two Uzbek jihadist groups are also taking part. The groups, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad and Katibat Imam al Bukhari, have long been integrated with Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham, and other allies on the battlefield.

In recent days, both groups have released videos showing fighters taking part in the battle for the small village of Maarata in the southern Aleppo countryside. Ahrar al Sham, a group which models itself after the Taliban and is a key al Qaeda ally, has videoed its forces in the village as well. The videos are short, but show heavy combat against regime troops and their allies for the town. Both Uzbek groups claimed working with each other, but only Imam Bukhari reported capturing regime troops during the battle.

Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad was formerly a nominally-independent faction before officially swearing allegiance to the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, late last year. While it is a predominately Uzbek group, other Central Asian ethnic groups, as well as some native Syrians, serve in its ranks. Katibat Imam al Bukhari (also known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat), is another Uzbek group that has long demonstrated its presence alongside Al Nusrah and other jihadist allies.

Imam Bukhari Jamaat has historically been loyal to the Taliban, having sworn allegiance to both Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansour. It has yet to release a statement swearing allegiance to the new Taliban emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. It is likely the group will do so in the future, however.

The Jaysh al Fateh coalition is trying to strengthen its hold on the town of Khan Touman and its surroundings after capturing the town last month. Al Nusrah and other member groups in Jaysh al Fateh say their fighters have targeted the neighboring towns and villages, including Humayrah, Khalsah, Qal’ajiyah, and Qarassi, all of which are south of Khan Tuman. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front and allies launch new offensive in Syria’s Aleppo province.]

Footage from Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad:

Footage from Ahrar al Sham:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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