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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Mess in Syria: Counter- Assad Jihadists Go Joint

Can't keep track of who is fighting whom in the former state of Syria? It's nice to have a guide through the maze of groups like ISIS, JTS which became HTS, etc. One of the best guides is the gang at Long War Journal, especially Thomas Joscelyn.

For example, I recommend reading Jihadists and other rebels assault Syrian regime positions in southern city, a portion of which is set out below:
On Feb. 12, the newly formed Hay’at Tahrir al Sham and its allies launched an offensive
against Syrian regime forces in the southern city of Daraa. The assault was led by two suicide bombers who detonated their vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in the regime-controlled neighborhood of al Manshiyeh. Daraa, which lies just several miles from Syria’s border with Jordan, has long been divided between the insurgents on one side and forces loyal to Bashar al Assad on the other.
Al Nusrah Front was the name of al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria until July 2016,
Arrow points to Daraa vicinity. Underlying map Ermanarich 
when the organization was rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS). Then, in January, JFS and four other insurgent groups merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), or “Assembly for the Liberation of Syria.”

HTS has posted photos (seen below) on social media from the fighting in Daraa, including an image of one of its “martyrs.” HTS identified the suicide attackers as Abu Riyan al Muhajir, a Jordanian, and Abu Muhammad al Ansari. The use of suicide bombers is telling. Although HTS has tried to obscure the role al Qaeda plays in its operations, “martyrdom” attacks are one of al Qaeda’s signatures. Other Islamist groups allied with al Qaeda in Syria have, by and large, abstained from carrying them out.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State, which rivals HTS, is prolific in its use of suicide terrorists. But al Qaeda has been far more selective, only using the tactic in key operations. For example, a number of “martyrs” were deployed during the battle for Aleppo late last year. Their appearance in Daraa likely indicates that HTS has deemed the offensive to be especially important, for one reason or another.

The anti-Assad forces in Daraa coordinate their movements in a joint military operations room known as Al Bunyan al Marsous. (Another, unrelated coalition of forces used this same name in Sirte, Libya.)

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