A video posted online by Ahrar al Sham “suggests that at least three distinct rebel groups were involved in the attack in Malula,” Syria this week, The New York Times reports. In addition to Ahrar al Sham, al Qaeda’s Al Nusrah Front and a Free Syrian Army brigade from Homs took part in the fighting. But it is not clear “how closely they cooperated with one another,” according to the Times.
Malula is an ancient town northeast of Damascus and is known for its Christian population. The Times previously reported that the town is one of the few places left in the world where Aramaic is spoken.
Ahrar al Sham is an extremist rebel group that frequently fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front. The group posted at least two videos online showing its participation in the fighting in Malula.
In one of the videos, according to the Times, the cameraman says the attack was “coordinated” with the Al Nusrah Front.
Other videos posted by a Free Syrian Army brigade show its fighters also participating in the assault.
According to the Associated Press, the Al Nusrah Front launched the dawn raid on Sept. 4 when a suicide bomber “blew himself up at a regime checkpoint at the entrance to the village.” The rebels “seized the checkpoint, disabled two tanks and an armored personnel carrier and killed eight regime soldiers in” the fighting that followed.
The AP cited a Syrian regime official and the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) in its reporting on Al Nusrah’s role. Residents took sanctuary in a village convent.
Condemning Western intervention
Separately, an umbrella group of Salafi rebels led by Ahrar al Sham condemned any possible Western intervention. “The true goal behind this military operation – if it happens – is to achieve the interests of its perpetrators,” the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF) said in a statement released on its Facebook page. “This operation is a prelude to political projects that are imposed and connected to these interests,” SIF warned.
The SIF statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The group goes on to stress the “obligation of unifying ranks” against Assad’s regime.