Foreign jihadists involved in Hama fighting

Over the past few weeks, several foreign jihadist groups operating in Syria’s northwest have advertised their role in the current fighting in northern Hama. These groups include units comprised of Uzbeks, Uighurs, and North Caucasians.

Among the foreign jihadist groups, two are predominately Uzbek, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) and Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB). KTJ is a constituent member of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), whereas KIB is openly loyal to the Afghan Taliban. Both groups have long operated alongside various Syrian opposition factions and other foreign jihadist groups in battles across northwestern Syria.

On their respective Telegram accounts, photos have been shared showing fighters from both groups moving to the front lines and taking part in combat against the Assad regime and its allies in an unspecified area of Hama.

However, as recent fighting has taken place in the countryside near Tel Melah, Jalamah, and other areas near Kernaz, it is likely that these photos were taken from that general region.

The al Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a predominately ethnic Uighur unit, has reported that its forces are also in northwestern Hama. Photos of mortar rounds being fired at regime forces, as well as the aftermath of a raid on the pro-regime Palestinian militia Liwa al Quds, have been released by the TIP’s Telegram channel.

Additionally, several pictures showings its men at ribat points (fortifications) near the frontlines have also been published. Much like KTJ and KIB, the TIP has also not yet released any video footage from Hama.

North Caucasians are also involved in the northern Hama battles. As first reported by From Chechnya to Syria, HTS’ Russian-speaking brigade, Liwa al Muhajireen wal Ansar (LMA), is also active on the front. LMA is a collection of Russian-speaking units that pledged allegiance to the former Al Nusrah Front, which has since become the core of HTS.

While not releasing any images of combat, the Caucasus Emirate in Syria, which still exists albeit small and fractured, has also reported its men are on ribat points in northern Hama.

A statement for a set of photos released in May also said that “mujahideen of the IK [Imarat Kavkaz] take part in the operations in Hama, responding to the call to battle.”

The foreign jihadist groups have joined Syrian opposition forces in attempting to stymie regime advances into northern Hama and southern Idlib. Over the past several weeks, offensives and counter-offensives from both sides have raged as intense fighting and regime bombardment ravage towns and villages in Hama’s northern countryside.

Photos released by Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad:

Photos released by Katibat Imam al Bukhari:

Photos released by the Turkistan Islamic Party:

Photos released by the Caucasus Emirate in Syria:

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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