U.S. Central Command says an airstrike targeted al Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) “leadership at a facility north of Idlib, Syria” earlier today. Jihadis on social media say the facility belonged to Ansar al-Tawhid, which is one of several al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria.
Jund al Aqsa, a US and UN designated terrorist organization, was subsumed by al Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch in early October. The group had deep ties to al Qaeda’s fundraising network in the Gulf prior to the merger.
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.
The State Department has designated Jund al Aqsa in Syria as a terrorist organization. The Long War Journal previously exposed Jund al Aqsa as an al Qaeda front group. Al Qaeda veterans have been embedded within the organization and Jund al Aqsa’s “general command” remains loyal to al Qaeda’s leaders.
Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, is playing a major role in the rebel offensive in Hama province. The group released a video earlier today showing one of its drones dropping a small, unguided bomb on Syrian regime forces. Jund al Aqsa has endorsed Al Nusrah Front’s relaunch as Jabhat Fath al Sham (“Conquest of the Levant Front”), saying that al Qaeda’s senior leadership must have determined that it was in the best interests of the people and the jihad in Syria.
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.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed today that the US targeted Abu Firas al Suri, a veteran al Qaeda leader, in an airstrike in Syria. Within hours of the bombing yesterday, jihadists on social media claimed that Abu Firas had perished. Separately, Cook confirmed that Hassan Ali Dhoore, a dual hatted al Qaeda and Shabaab leader, was killed in an airstrike in Somalia on Mar. 31.
According to a statement published online, twelve senior figures in Jund al Aqsa have joined Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. Jund al Aqsa has suffered from internal disputes for months and these disagreements likely led to the leaders’ announcement. Despite operating somewhat independently from Al Nusrah, the group has long been a front for senior al Qaeda operatives.