Flag of Ansar Jihad
Ansar Jihad, an al Qaeda-linked group comprised of Central Asian and Turkish fighters, has released a video touting another training camp in northern Syria. Unlike other training camp videos from the group, this makeshift setup focuses on small arms training, explosives, and small unit combat.
Most of the video is dedicated to showing the jihadist group training in small arms fire near abandoned buildings somewhere in northwestern Syria. Kalashnikov assault rifles and PK machine guns are shown, along with the use of explosives and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). The video ends with the jihadists partaking in physical training. Prior training videos have focused on snipers and close quarters combat.
Ansar Jihad is an al Qaeda-linked group that has fought alongside that organization’s main branch in Syria in many battles. It has advertised its role in the fighting in Aleppo, including in the Oct. 2016 al Qaeda-led offensive named the “Battle of Abu Omar Saraqib.” A Uighur military commander of the group was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year alongside a longtime al Qaeda veteran known as Abu Khattab al Qahtani.
The group’s commander, Abu Omar al Turkistani, reportedly played a leading role in the creation of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a merger between Jabhat Fatah al Sham (JFS, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria) and several other rebel groups. Turkistani may have been in line to assume a position in the newly formed entity. As such, it remains possible that Ansar Jihad is a subsidiary of JFS/HTS.
Ansar Jihad also has ties to the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in Afghanistan. Turkistani was a former commander in the IJU from around 2011 to 2015 when he migrated to Syria to join the jihad there. On Ansar Jihad’s Telegram page, it has also eulogized killed IJU fighters and has shared its videos. However, it is unclear if Ansar Jihad contains any other former IJU members. (See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Uighur jihadist fought in Afghanistan, killed in Syria.)
Screenshots from the video: