Banner for the Al Nusrah Front, a jihadist group in Syria. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda in Iraq’s affiliate in Syria, has claimed credit for two suicide attacks against the Syrian military that took place two weeks ago. The two suicide attacks are the first claimed by the terror group this year.
In a statement released on jihadist forums two days ago, the Al Nusrah Front, one of several jihadist groups in Syria battling the Assad regime, claimed credit for two suicide attacks that were conducted on Jan. 8. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Al Nusrah said the two suicide attacks, along with an assault on a military outpost and a remotely detonated car bomb, were launched in response to the “massacre committed against our people in the village of al-Mastumah” in Idlib province, according to SITE. Al Nusrah claimed that Syrian security forces had killed “nearly 100 from the Muslim public … and their houses and properties were burned and sanctities were violated.”
The terror group said that an outpost in Dawar al-Mutlaq was attacked by a suicide bomber known as Abu Omar al-Janubi. Another suicide bomber, identified as Abu al- Darda’a al-Shami, struck a group of soldiers at an outpost in the village of Nabigh Barakat. The Al Nusrah Front did not say how many soldiers were killed in either suicide attack.
The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 45 of the 54 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria in the past 12 months.
Al Nusrah spearheads military assaults
Al Nusrah has also served as the vanguard for jihadist forces in the major attacks on Syrian military bases. In concert with allied jihadist groups such as the Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Vanguard, Mujahedeen Shura Council, and the Muhajireen Group, the terror group has overrun three large Syrian installations since last fall.
On Jan. 11, Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham, and the Islamic Vanguard overran the Taftanaz airbase in Aleppo. The airbase was used by government forces to launch airstrikes on anti-regime forces. More than 60 helicopters operated from Taftanaz, and were deployed to attack nearby towns and cities as well as rebel forces.
On Dec. 10, 2012, the Al Nusrah Front, the Mujahedeen Shura Council, and the Muhajireen Group took control of the Sheikh Suleiman base, or Base 111. Arab and Chechen fighters participated in the assault on Sheikh Suleiman, which is said to be a key research facility linked to the regime’s chemical weapons program [see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front, foreign jihadists seize key Syrian base in Aleppo].
And on Oct. 11, 2012, Al Nusrah, the supposedly secular Free Syrian Army, and Chechen fighters overran a Syrian air defense and Scud missile base in Aleppo [see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front commanded Free Syrian Army unit, ‘Chechen emigrants,’ in assault on Syrian air defense base].
Al Nusrah is also leading a siege against a strategic base in Wadi Deif, which is also in the province of Idlib, and attempting to seize control of the main airport in Aleppo [see Threat Matrix report, Al Nusrah Front on the offensive in Aleppo].
The terror group has become one of the most powerful and effective units in the Syrian insurgency, and it has begun to absorb elements of the Free Syrian Army. The Al Nusrah Front also conducts joint operations with the Free Syrian Army and other supposedly secular groups, and has numerous foreign fighters in its ranks.
An al Qaeda affiliate
On Dec. 11, 2012, the US designated the Al Nusrah Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The designation stated that the emir of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Du’a (a.k.a. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi al Husseini al Qurshi), “is in control of both AQI and Al Nusrah.”
At the same time, the US added two senior Al Nusrah leaders, Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab, both members of al Qaeda in Iraq, to the list of global terrorists; the US did not add the emir of Al Nusrah, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Julani, to the list, however. [See LWJ report, US adds Al Nusrah Front, 2 leaders to terrorism list, for information on the designation of the Al Nusrah Front and the two leaders.]
Despite Al Nusrah’s known affiliation with al Qaeda and its radical ideology, Syrian opposition groups, including the supposedly secular Syrian National Coalition, have rallied to support Al Nusrah. Immediately after the US designated Al Nusrah as a terrorist group, 29 Syrian opposition groups signed a petition that not only condemned the US’s designation, but said “we are all Al Nusrah,” and urged their supporters to raise Al Nusrah’s flag (which is the flag of al Qaeda) [see LWJ report, Syrian National Coalition urges US to drop Al Nusrah terrorism designation].