Al Nusrah Front’s Abu Ghadiyah training camp.
The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant has announced the establishment of two training camps in Syria that are named after al Qaeda’s emir and a senior al Qaeda in Iraq operative who was killed by US special operations forces in Syria in 2008.
The Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, disclosed the existence of the two camps in videos that were released on YouTube over the past two weeks.
In the videos, the masked trainees are seen marching in formation; running through obstacle courses, often while instructors fire live rounds at their feet; live-firing weapons, and practicing military assaults or “storming” operations.
The Ayman al Zawahiri Camp, located in the city of Deir al Zour, is named after al Qaeda’s current emir. In the video, one of the instructors praised al Qaeda’s prior emir, Osama bin Laden, as “the Sheikh, the Imam, the Reviver [of jihad], Usama bin Muhammad bin Laden,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
“All praise is due to Allah, who granted us that we followed his [bin Laden’s] path on this method, with permission from Allah the Almighty,” the instructor continued.
The Abu Ghadiya Camp is named after the leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq facilitation network that was based in eastern Syria. Abu Ghadiya, who was appointed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi to lead the network and whose real name is Badran Turki Hishan al Mazidi, was killed during a US special operations raid near Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, just five miles from the Iraqi border, in October 2008. Several members of his staff were also killed during the cross-border raid.
In February 2008, the US Treasury department publicly designated Abu Ghadiya and his brother Akram Turki Hishan Al Mazidih, as well as his two cousins Ghazy Fezza Hishan Al Mazidih and Saddah Jaylut Al Marsumis, as senior members of al Qaeda’s foreign facilitation network. Abu Ghadiya was supported by Assef Shawkat, the former deputy defense minister and head of Syrian military intelligence who was killed in a suicide attack in 2012. [See LWJ reports, US strike in Syria “decapitated” al Qaeda’s facilitation network, and Slain Syrian official supported al Qaeda in Iraq.]
The Al Nusrah Front videos from the Abu Ghadiya and Ayman al Zawahiri camps are reminiscent of others released by al Qaeda from the network of camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s. Al Qaeda used camps such as Khalden and Al Farouq to churn out thousands of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Taliban in the 55th Arab Brigade. But al Qaeda also selected graduates of the camps to conduct attacks in the West, including the Sept. 11, 2001 operation.