In the UNSC’s new report on the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and affiliated groups, the UN states that the Uzbek jihadist group, the Islamic Jihad Union, operates in Syria. This was not previously known.
The suicide bombings show the Turkistan Islamic Party’s close battlefield integration with al Qaeda’s forces in Syria, as well as further highlighting its position within the overall al Qaeda network.
The policy debate concerning Syria must reflect on-the-ground realities. The war is a complex, multi-sided affair with no easy solutions.
Ansar Jihad, a small al Qaeda-linked group comprised of Central Asians and Turkish fighters, has released another video of its training camps in northwestern Syria.
A Uighur commander known as Abu Omar al Turkistani was killed in a US drone strike in Syria on Jan. 1. According to a jihadi biography posted online, he had a lengthy career fighting alongside al Qaeda-linked forces. He purportedly participated in the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001.
The Pentagon is still assessing the results of airstrikes on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 in northern Syria, but it is believed that 20 al Qaeda “militants” were killed in the bombings. The airstrikes are likely among the most significant carried out against al Qaeda in Syria since Sept. 2014. President Obama reportedly authorized a more robust air campaign against al Qaeda in Syria late last year, after the administration had previously defined down the threat.
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.