Center for Strategic Communication

The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, have claimed credit for a suicide attack at a defense factory that occurred nearly three weeks ago. Several civilians were killed in the deadly bombing.

The Syrian terror group took credit for the attack in a statement that was released yesterday on its Twitter account and obtained by The Long War Journal.

According to the statement, the Feb. 6 attack was executed by a suicide bomber known as Abu Bara al Homsi. The suicide bomber detonated a minibus packed with “2.5 tons of explosives” in the middle of what was described as “a gathering place” of Syrian security personnel. The Al Nusrah Front stated that the factory “produces daily approximately 250,000 rounds Kalashnikov and 13,000 rounds Dushka and other munitions.”

Photographs of the suicide bomber (whose face is blurred), the explosives, and the bus immediately before and as it was detonated accompanied the statement that took credit for the attack.

More than 60 people, including 11 women, were killed in the suicide attack, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war in the country.

“Dozens of workers in the plant were killed, the Syrian Observatory documented 60 names (11 women) of residents from the Salamiya city of eastern Reef Hama, its neighbouring villages and the cities of Homs and Hama,” the human rights group stated on its Facebook page.

When the attack was reported on Feb. 8, the fact that it had been executed by a suicide bomber was not clear. The Associated Press reported at the time that 54 people, all civilians who worked at the munitions factory, were killed.

The Al Nusrah Front has used al Qaeda’s signature tactic — the suicide bomber and suicide assault team — to target Syrian security forces. Some of these attacks have been carried out in conjunction with supposedly secular Free Syrian Army units as well as with allied jihadist groups, such as the Muhajireen Group, which is led by a Chechen commander.

The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 52 of the 62 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011, according to a tally by The Long War Journal (note that multiple suicide bombers deployed in a single operation are counted as part of a single attack). So far this year, 10 suicide attacks have been reported in Syria; Al Nusrah has claimed credit for nine of them.

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].

The al Qaeda affiliate’s ranks have been growing, and it is now estimated to have upwards of 10,000 fighters in its ranks.

Due to its organization and prowess on the battlefield, the terror group has become popular and is recruiting from other rival groups. The Al Nusrah Front has overrun four major military bases and conducted multiple storming operations on security and intelligence bases and headquarters throughout the country.