Qatar recently secured the release of Qatari hostages, including members of the royal family. But its diplomatic victory was marred by reports that a multi-million dollar ransom was paid to a US-designated terrorist group and an al Qaeda-linked joint venture in Syria.
Jihadists, Islamists and rebel groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a new offensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime in northern Hama province earlier this week. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, al Qaeda’s joint venture in Syria, is playing a prominent role in the fighting, dispatching several suicide bombers and its “special forces.” Upwards of 10 or more FSA-branded groups are participating as well.
Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), Ahrar al Sham, and the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Faylaq al Rahman launched a surprise offensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime in Damascus yesterday. HTS, an al Qaeda front group, has been stepping up its attacks in the Syrian capital in recent weeks.
Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a newly formed group that includes al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, launched a complex assault on the Assad regime’s security services in the city of Homs earlier today. A high-ranking military intelligence official was killed in the suicide raid.
On Feb. 12, the newly formed Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) and other insurgent groups launched an offensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime in the southern city of Daraa. Two HTS suicide bombers were deployed at the beginning of the battle. HTS includes al Qaeda’s arm in Syria.
Abu Jaber has released his first speech as the general commander of the newly formed Ha’yat Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of Syria”). He calls on other factions to join his group, promises to wage jihad on Bashar al Assad’s regime until the end and claims that losing the war would be catastrophic for Syria’s Sunnis.
The Pentagon announced that 11 al Qaeda operatives were killed in a pair of airstrikes near Idlib, Syria earlier this month. One of them, Abu Hani al Masri, is described as “a legacy al Qaeda terrorist with ties to the group’s senior leaders, including Ayman al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden.”
Five groups, including al Qaeda’s rebranded branch, have announced the creation of a new group in Syria. The move comes after weeks of reported disagreements and clashes between the insurgents in northern Syria.
Ayman al Zawahiri eulogizes two slain al Qaeda veterans in a newly released video. Zawahiri praises the pair for their contributions to jihad. The production is laced with criticisms of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State.
Al Qaeda’s rebranded guerrilla army in Syria is fighting alongside other jihadists, Islamists and Free Syrian Army-branded rebels in an offensive intended to break the Assad regime’s siege of Aleppo. Most of the participating groups belong to two coalitions: Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”) and Fatah Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”). These same two alliances tried and failed to break the siege earlier this year.
Jund al Aqsa has sworn allegiance to Jabhat Fath al Sham, al Qaeda’s rebranded branch in Syria. Jund al Aqsa itself is an al Qaeda front group. The move comes after weeks of infighting between Jund al Aqsa and other groups opposed to Bashar al Assad’s regime.
Jaysh al Fateh, a jihadist-led coalition that includes al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and various groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army have launched a new offensive on government-held positions in the Latakia province. The assault has been named the “Battle of Yarmouk.”
The Jaysh al Fateh alliance captured three more villages in the southern countryside of Aleppo during an offensive that began on June 17. The jihadist-led coalition has made steady gains in Aleppo province since May, further demonstrating al Qaeda’s prowess in guerrilla warfare.
The two Uzbek groups are fighting with the Jaysh al Fateh coalition as part of its renewed offensive in southern Aleppo.
Jaysh al Fateh, a coalition cofounded by Al Nusrah Front, launched a new offensive in Syria’s Aleppo province in the past two days. The assault is designed to extend Jaysh al Fateh’s control over the territory surrounding the town of Khan Tuman, which was seized last month.
The Jaysh al Fath coalition, which overran the Idilb province in northwestern Syria last year, has launched a new offensive south of the city of Aleppo. The jihadists have released dramatic drone footage from the fighting, which centered on the town of Khan Tuman. Several of Jaysh al Fath’s member organizations have produced propaganda from the battle.
Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini has launched a new jihadist recruiting campaign throughout Syria. 200 sharia officials from various factions have fanned out across Syria in an attempt to recruit 5,000 new “mujahideen.” Muhaysini has multiple links to al Qaeda’s international network.
The US killed Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa in an airstrike this week. Musa first began working with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri in the 1980s and 1990s. US intelligence officials identified him as a key figure in al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group.” According to one of his former comrades, he was in Syria to promote unity between Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham.
The Syrian government says that a fighter jet was downed by a surface to air missile in the Aleppo province earlier today. There are conflicting reports concerning how the plane was hit. Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has the pilot in custody and another al Qaeda-linked group, Ahrar al Sham, has claimed responsibility for downing the jet.
Jihadists on social media say that Abu Firas al Suri, a veteran jihadist who served al Qaeda since the 1980s, has been killed in an airstrike in Syria. Abu Firas previously explained al Qaeda’s revolutionary approach to waging jihad, saying the group seeks to develop “erupting jihadi centers” in various Muslim-majority countries.
Several rebel groups in Syria’s Aleppo province have united under the leadership of Hashem al Sheikh, who was the emir of Ahrar al Sham from September 2014 to September 2015. The alliance doesn’t include Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, but its constituents will almost certainly continue to cooperate with al Qaeda’s men.
A crucial battle in Syria’s Aleppo province pits Bashar al Assad’s regime and its allies against jihadists, Islamists, and other rebel factions.
The head of the Al Nusrah Front, Abu Muhammad al Julani, proposed a merger with several other jihadist groups in Syria earlier this month. According to an al Qaeda member who has a popular Twitter feed, the plan fell through when some Ahrar al Sham leaders pushed for Al Nusrah to publicly disassociate itself from al Qaeda.
An American citizen, Amin al Baroudi, pleaded guilty to violating US sanctions by providing “tactical equipment” to Ahrar al Sham, which is allied with al Qaeda’s arm in Syria.
Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham have issued eulogies for Zahran Alloush, the leader of Jaysh al Islam, who was killed in an airstrike outside of Damascus on Dec. 25. Alloush portrayed himself and his organization as “moderate” in comparison to the Islamic State, but that was not an apt description for him.
The Jaysh al Fateh coalition, which is led by jihadist groups, has launched a counteroffensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime and its allies in the southern part of the Aleppo province. Leading member groups in the alliance, including Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham, claim to have captured several towns and villages.
Three jihadist groups have formed Jund al Malahim (“Soldiers of the Epics”), a joint operations room opposed to the Assad regime and Russian forces in the Ghouta region of Damascus.
The Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham all claimed to have captured the so-called UN Hill from the Assad regime earlier today. The Southern Front previously rejected collaboration with Al Nusrah Front.
Ahrar al Sham claims to have launched Grad rockets at the Hmeimim airbase in the Latakia province of Syria earlier today. Russian forces are stationed at the airbase.
Testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade on the US counterterrorism strategy in Syria. “The West’s involvement is ad hoc, tactical and reactionary.”